Naas braced for Pienaar challenge

Naas Olivier says his pivotal battle with Ruan Pienaar will be vital in the Cheetahs’ match against the Sharks on Friday.

The clash in Durban will be crucial for both teams. The Cheetahs want to be more successful at Super 14 level and a win will help motivate the players to make the mental step-up, while the Sharks will look at this game as their best chance to bank their first victory in 2010.

Considering the Cheetahs squandered several try-scoring opportunities in their defeat to the Bulls last week, backline coach Hawies Fourie told this site on Monday that they will need to create more chances and be more clinical if they want to triumph against the Sharks.

Word from the Cheetahs’ camp is that they will look to play more expansively under the new law interpretations in Durban and the player who will spearhead their game plan will be pivot Olivier.

Olivier, who had a solid showing against the defending champions in Bloemfontein, believes he will need the upper hand against Pienaar if their attacking plans are to be effective.

‘We can’t just run everything. We will need field position to create opportunities, so I will need to counter Ruan with the boot,’ Olivier told keo.co.za. ‘Penalties will still add value to the score but we want to play an expansive game. The new breakdown law interpretations allow attacking teams to retain possession easier and that will suite our game plan.

‘With strong finishers like Lionel Mapoe, Jongi Nokwe and Danwel Demas in the side, we will look to score tries when possible. Especially with Lionel’s move to outside centre. He is an exciting, strong lad and will probably open a few doors in the midfield.’

Olivier added that they will need to mark Pienaar in defence.

‘Our defence was disappointing at times against the Bulls. Pienaar is a world-class attacking player, so we will need to tighten up and make those tackles.’

Last year during the Springbok end-of-year tour, Pienaar struggled at pivot behind a dominated pack in the midweek games.

Olivier said the Cheetahs pack will look to gain ascendancy against the Sharks’ forwards to put Pienaar under similar pressure.

‘It will be important for them to provide clean ball and to make things difficult for the Sharks at the set-pieces and breakdowns,’ he said. ‘Although they didn’t perform well last week, we still have an excellent tight five and they will look to put in an improved performance on Friday.

‘That will make things a bit harder for Ruan. The fact that the Sharks haven’t won the game this year [the Sharks lost against the Chiefs last week and were beaten by the Stormers and Western Force during the pre-season] already puts them under pressure.’

By Gareth Duncan