Naka Drotske says a win over the Brumbies will lay the foundation for a good home run and ultimately an improved log finish.
The Cheetahs have lost all six matches to date and play their first game in Bloemfontein this weekend. There’s been little in their display to suggest a turnaround, but Drotske is positive the charms of home will inspire an improved performance.
‘It’s great to be home and we need to put that tour behind us,’ the Cheetahs coach told keo.co.za. ‘It’s always easier for us back in South Africa, but winning this first game in Bloem will set up a good home run. Given that a few teams still have to tour, we could still move up the table.’
The Cheetahs host the Brumbies this weekend, a team that’s coming off two losses against the Lions and Sharks. A win against the Canberra outfit would do the other South African franchises a favour, but Drotske is more concerned with chalking up the Cheetahs’ first win of 2009.
This task will be that much harder considering the Brumbies have welcomed back Wallabies centre Stirling Mortlock from injury. Nevertheless, the tour could take its toll.
‘Stirling Mortlock does make a big difference to their side, but it has been a tough tour for them. They’re into their third week and we need to take advantage of that,’ said Drotske.
‘At the same time, we won’t be taking anything for granted. They have some quality backs that can annihilate you if you give them the space. Our defence is going to have to keep them quiet.’
The Cheetahs welcome back a talisman of their own in flanker Juan Smith. Aided by the irrepressible Heinrich Brussow, Smith will need to outplay his namesake, George Smith, one of the game’s great loose forwards.
‘We’re thrilled Juan’s back, he’s a world class player who we certainly missed on tour. In partnership with Heinrich Brussow he should give George Smith and company a run for their money,’ said Drotske.
‘We’ve been fortunate in the last few games not to concede many injuries, we’ve been able to build some continuity. Our lineout has been good but we’ve worked on a few problems at scrum time and on defence. After a week of hard work, we’re hoping it pays off.’
Following this fixture, the Cheetahs host the Sharks, Chiefs, Crusaders and Waratahs in successive weeks. From a South African perspective, it’s imperative that they knock over the Brumbies and build momentum ahead of their remaining clashes with Australasian opposition.
If the Cheetahs can upset the Crusaders, Chiefs or Waratahs, it could affect the number of South African sides involved in the play-offs and ultimately where these matches are played.
By Jon Cardinelli