Cheetahs strive for higher level

Eight wins in their last 10 games have earned the Cheetahs a semi-final spot, but assistant coach Hawies Fourie says they’ll need to lift their game.

With four successive defeats at the start of the campaign, many wrote the Cheetahs off. However, a miraculous turnaround in form has seen them edge Griquas for a place in the top four after the last round of results.

Although happy with their late surge into the play-offs, Fourie said they can’t afford to lose focus at this crucial stage of the competition, especially against the Sharks who have beaten them home and away.

‘We really came back well after a disappointing start to the season,’ he told keo.co.za. ‘I think we have surprised many unions by making it to the semis and it feels great.

‘However, if we want to win the semi-final, we have to take our game to the next level. The Sharks are a quality side and are top of the log. If you want to be beat the No 1 team in the competition, then you can’t afford to make any mistakes.’

In their last encounter in Durban, the Cheetahs’ poor display at the set phases led to the Sharks’ two tries in the 24-13 defeat. Although the breakdown is an area the Cheetahs have improved on since then, Fourie said the team will not be complacent and will work harder to get quality ball.

‘The breakdown is the one of the most important areas in the modern game. With Jean Deysel back in the side, we need to make a step up at the breakdowns to secure quick ball and put pressure on them with our attack.

‘The Sharks have a good defensive record. There are only a few ways to counter them and quick ball from the breakdown is one of them. You will struggle if you allow them to slow the ball down. They get good numbers on their feet and if we can’t stop them, we will struggle.’

While the breakdowns will be top priority, Fourie said they will need to have a balanced approach. A more conservative game plan will be required if it rains.

‘They don’t have many weaknesses, so we will need an all-round game. We will have to get quick ball, but we also need patience and a good kicking game.

‘It might rain in Durban as the weather predictions say there is a 60% chance of rain. If it does, we will have to employ more of a kicking game as it will be difficult to carry the ball on a wet field.

‘A good tactical kicking game will be important because they have good kickers in Ruan Pienaar, Juan Hernandez and Stefan Terblanche, but we have improved enough to match them in that department.’

Meanwhile, the Cheetahs emerged unscathed in their 55-10 win over Boland and have no new injury concerns. They will also be boosted by the returns of pivot Jacques-Louis Potgieter and wing Lionel Mapoe.

By Gareth Duncan