Cheetahs shore up defence

Hawies Fourie believes the Sharks need to be culled at the source if the Cheetahs are to stand any chance of an upset.

The Cheetahs are something of a bogey team for the Durban brood, as traditionally the central side are capable of matching the Sharks’ robust approach. John Plumtree will realise this, and the contrasting log positions won’t matter one iota at Vodacom Park this Saturday. That is unless the Cheetahs produce another porous effort on defence.

It’s an area they’ve battled to rectify in past seasons which is a shame considering their enterprise on attack. This creativity was apparent in their recent clash with the Brumbies, but unfortunately, so was their lack of concentration on defence.

Speaking to keo.co.za, Fourie said the Cheetahs can’t afford to give the Sharks so much space on Saturday. Despite a nil from seven return in 2009, the central franchise are surprisingly confident.

‘If you saw these guys in training, you wouldn’t believe they hadn’t won a game,’ said Fourie. ‘They’re keen to get stuck into the Sharks and the most important thing is that we are up to it defensively. I’m sure they’ll see it as a weakness, so we need to stick to our systems.

‘Frans Steyn is a great player, a player who loves to hit the line flat. We’ll need to stop him from getting momentum, just as we’ll have to stop the likes of Beast Mtawarira, Ryan Kankowski and Bismarck du Plessis around the rucks. As seen last week, the Sharks are difficult to stop when they get momentum. We have to stop them behind the advantage line.’

Fourie believes the Sharks do lose something with Ruan Pienaar sidelined, but the star of their backline, Rory Kockott, has been outstanding in spearheading the attack. The diminutive scrumhalf with the big mouth will need to be silenced on Saturday.

‘Kockott is just so dangerous. He’s a threat around the fringes and possesses a great kicking game, but his biggest asset is his decision-making. He never takes the wrong option.’

Although defence is a problem, the Cheetahs are starting to find their form on attack. But for a couple of errant blows by Matt Goddard, they may have pipped the Brumbies in Bloemfontein. Corne Uys’s try was disallowed even though he was clearly behind the kicker, and George Smith employed an American football-style block to allow a team-mate a simple try.

‘There were quite a lot of positives from that game. Our attack was much improved and a lot of that had to do with our scrum. We cut them a number of times off first phase which is very encouraging.

‘Our defence could have been better, but we were very disappointed with a couple of the referee’s calls. Corne was a full two metres behind Hendro Scholtz when that kick went through, and then George Smith obstructed David de Villiers to allow the Brumbies another try.

‘We’ve been a bit unlucky this season but that was heart-breaking.’

Adriaan and Richardt Strauss are expected to recover from their respective niggles, but winger Danwel Demas is in doubt after sustaining a grade one hamstring tear against the Brumbies. Fabian Juries is set to take his place in the starting line-up.

By Jon Cardinelli