Hawies Fourie is confident the Cheetahs will hang onto promising centre Robert Ebersohn despite lucrative offers from other provinces.
Reports on Wednesday confirmed the Bulls, Western Province and the Sharks were all keen on signing Robert and twin brother Sias for the 2010 season. The Ebersohn brothers’ contracts expire after the Currie Cup, and the big unions want to recruit the Cheetahs’ pair before the 2010 Super 14.
Speaking to keo.co.za, Fourie said head coach Naka Drotske has been in negotiations with the players’ agents since the Cheetahs returned from their Australasian tour in April. The assistant coach is confident the Cheetahs will retain the services of both players.
‘The feedback from those ongoing negotiations has been very positive,’ Fourie said. ‘They are both quite keen to stay in Bloemfontein.
‘Robert has attracted a lot of attention after his performance in last year’s Currie Cup. I spoke to him before the Super 14 and he agreed he was not physically ready and wanted to play sevens. We agreed that in 2010 he would be ready for Super 14 rugby.’
Fourie said that despite Robert’s small stature, he has the makings of a fine outside centre.
‘If he wants to play 12, he will have to improve his play-making abilities, but I feel 13 suits him better. His defence is excellent and he competes very well on the ground. On attack, he creates a number of linebreaks.’
Robert is set to feature in this year’s Currie Cup, but his brother Sias may only come into the reckoning if there’s an injury to either Louis Strydom or Jacques-Louis Potgieter. The Cheetahs still view the SA U20 flyhalf as one for the future.
‘He trains with the senior side on Mondays and trains with the U21s for the rest of the week,’ explained Fourie. ‘If he plays well in that competition, I might be tempted to give him a go at senior level.
‘He needs to work hard on his kicking game, but his skills and decision-making – things that are very hard to coach – are already there. That is massively encouraging.’
The Cheetahs play Griquas in Bloemfontein tonight. They are expected to win, but won’t take anything for granted in a derby game.
‘Since we got back from our Australasian tour [in the Super 14] we’ve done well, except in that match against the Stormers,’ said Fourie. ‘We played good rugby against the British & Lions and we have to carry that through against Griquas.
‘Their players normally have a point to prove so we know it’s going to be tough and we can’t take them lightly.’
By Jon Cardinelli