The Cheetahs will ride the momentum of a shock victory over the Sharks into their next fixture against the Chiefs.
It was no controversial, narrow win in Bloemfontein. Juan Smith’s men thumped the tournament favourites 31-6 and in doing so proved they are not to be underestimated. They picked up the four-try bonus and limited the Sharks to just two Rory Kockott penalties.
It was embarrassing for the Sharks, but immensely satisfying for the local side.
‘It was a huge relief,’ Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie told keo.co.za. ‘We’ve always believed we had the ability despite our lack of results, so to come good like that was very satisfying.
‘Our lineout was very competitive and our defence off first phase really did the job. They weren’t allowed to build momentum and thus build a multi-phase attack.’
The Cheetahs have had their problems on defence, and so Saturday’s shut out will stand them in good stead for the coming game. Fourie, however, said the Sharks and Chiefs differ greatly in their approach.
‘We’ll take plenty of confidence from that performance, but the Chiefs are an entirely different prospect and are harder to defend against. They attack with a lot of variation, whereas a team like the Sharks like to bash it up through their big inside backs.
‘The Chiefs enjoy mixing it up, but they will miss [injured] players like Lelia Masaga and Sitiveni Sivivatu. Having said that, Dwayne Sweeney scored a hat-trick against the Lions two weeks ago and Sosene Anesi is another dangerous player. We won’t underestimate them, they are classy players in their own right.
‘It’s imperative that we pressure Brendan Leonard and Stephen Donald as that should in turn place the rest of their backs under pressure. Leonard likes to look for attacking options for himself before passing to Donald, and we’ll have to be wary of him around the fringes.’
Saturday’s result in Bloemfontein wasn’t a good one for South Africa, as the Sharks can now be overtaken should the Chiefs win well in Kimberley. But given the Cheetahs beat the Sharks, there’s no reason to believe they can’t upset the Chiefs.
‘I bet the Sharks were surprised as they expected to come to Bloemfontein and pick up five points,’ said Fourie. ‘But yes, it would be nice if we could help the Sharks and Bulls by beating the Chiefs this week.
‘However, it is more important that we play for ourselves. We want to play for a better log position and are aiming to win three of our last five games to ensure we finish the competition with 20 log points.’
Apart from a few bumps and bruises, the Cheetahs should have all 22 players available for the Chiefs clash. Danwel Demas, who was replaced by Basson for the Sharks game, is still battling with a hamstring ailment and did not train on Monday.
By Jon Cardinelli