The Cheetahs side will remain unchanged so as to maintain the momentum and confidence gained from five straight wins, says Naka Drotske.
The Free State team are riding a wave having bagged the scalps of Boland, the Valke, Griquas, the Lions and Western Province in the first five rounds of the Currie Cup. Drotske has been reluctant to change the side in the past two weeks, and claims the same 22 will roll on to Durban this Saturday.
“It was a gradual beginning with games against Boland and the Valke,” he told Keo.co.za. “We were able to try a few things in these games and establish our combinations. By the time we played the Lions we were confident about these partnerships.
“It’s going to be very tough down in Durban this weekend. They have been doing something right, as by this stage they are one of the best defensive teams in the competition.”
The much improved Cheetahs backline will be tasked with breaching the Sharks defence, with Meyer Bosman and Marius Joubert the likely midfield assailants once again. A real problem area for the Cheetahs in the Super 14, it seems as if Drotske and assistant Hawies Fourie have finally found a solution.
“I must really take my hat off to the backs and the way they have performed in this competition,” said Drotske. “They perhaps weren’t up to scratch in the Super 14, but they have taken their opportunities well as they showed last week from turnover ball.”
Former Free State coach Rassie Erasmus employed a dual-squad system last year in an attempt to play his whole squad into form before the playoffs. Drotske said he will give a few other players a chance when they begin the second round, which should also herald the return of the injured Hendro Scholtz, Adriaan Strauss and Barend Pieterse.
However, he also stated his preference for keep a winning unit together.
“I want to create a confidence within the side by keeping a team that is performing on the park. The players also need to know I back them as the best in their position.”
Both the Sharks and Cheetahs have displayed a willingness to take the ball wide but the weather in Durban may inhibit the chance of a free-flowing spectacle on Saturday.
“I looked at the weather and there’s a 60% chance of rain, which is a great shame considering both teams love to run the ball,” said Drotske. “We will need to adjust our tactics accordingly.”
By Jon Cardinelli