Cheetahs shore up defence

JW Jonker’s inconsistent defensive showings make him the primary target for the Stormers strike runners this Saturday.

The Cheetahs No 13 has produced some fine touches on attack, but on defence Jonker has struggled to make those crucial one-on-one tackles for much of the season. Stormers captain Jean de Villiers said at a media conference on Thursday the Cheetahs are lacking experience in the outside channels. Anybody who’s watched the Cheetahs in 2008 season will know De Villiers is talking about Jonker.

“If I were them, I’d target him too,” Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie told “He did make a few mistakes in the big games against the Crusaders and the Blues, but a young guy like JW is always going to make a few errors. I have full confidence that he will be alright this weekend. It is something we have been working on.”

The Cheetahs have conceded 30 tries to date, but will take heart from their first win last week against the Reds. That said, there is still much to improve on from a defensive view point.

“There was an improvement against the Reds but we need to cut out those little lapses,” said Fourie. “We really let them back into the game and they may very well have scored another try in that period.

“We can’t afford to give the Stormers any chances on Saturday. They have some very dangerous players out wide.
Tonderai Chavhanga’s been in great form and everybody knows what Sireli Naqelevuki is capable of. Conrad Jantjes is also a threat on the counter and his kicking game is very strong.”

The tactical kicking game is crucial for the Cheetahs. Although Chavhanga and Naqelevuki are not renowned kickers, Jantjes is one of the better tactical kickers in the country. Jantjes may be a threat with ball in hand, but he is just as effective when he puts ball to boot.

“We’re fortunate to have some variation in this department,” said Fourie. Hennie [Daniller] has a big left boot while Jacques-Louis [Potgieter] has an equally educated right foot. Tewis de Bruyn is also a very good kicker as is Meyer Bosman. We have plenty of options.”

The forwards will look to set the platform, but the Cheetahs backline is largely underestimated on attack. Potgieter has been the spark that’s ignited the central franchise in 2008, and the visitors will be looking for some of that magic this weekend.

“Jacques-Louis is a very confident player and his real strength is his pace,” said Fourie. “He is not much slower than Jongi Nokwe or Dusty Noble and we are trying to get him to use that speed when he runs at the opposition. He doesn’t get it right every time, but when he does he can be very dangerous.

“When he can do this consistently, he is going to be a very special player.”

Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus expects the Cheetahs to keep it tight but Fourie said they will look to mix it up according to the situation.

“We’ll stick to what works but we’re not going to be very predictable. There will be a few changes to keep the opposition guessing.

“It’s vital we get quick ball this Saturday. Luke Watson and Schalk Burger will be a threat at the breakdown, and without quick, clean ball, we can’t play our natural game.”

By Jon Cardinelli