JON CARDINELLI believes that the Ebersohn twins have brought a new dimension to the Cheetahs.
Naka Drotske has stated the obvious by saying there will be no favours for the desperate Sharks. The Cheetahs are no longer in contention for the Super Rugby play-offs, but are determined to play the type of rugby that is entertaining as well as effective.
If that means striking a blow to the Sharks’ play-off prospects, then so be it. If they have to rough up a few of the more-fancied Springboks in the process, then they aren’t going to hold back.
While the 2011 Super Rugby season won’t be remembered for results in Cheetahs country, it will surely be remembered for the exuberant manner in which the players have conducted themselves on the pitch. Despite losing a host of key men to injury, they’ve managed to stay competitive. In fact, it’s been the less experienced youngsters that have provided a fresh driving force.
Playing in his second season of Super Rugby, 22-year-old Robert Ebersohn has looked a fine attacking prospect. Brother Sias made his debut earlier in the 2011 competition, and despite the team’s initial struggles, Drotske continued to back him at flyhalf.
The Cheetahs’ management swapped Naas Olivier for Sias Ebersohn early in the season, and it’s made all the difference to the team dynamic. Ebersohn has racked up 157 points thanks in large part to his accurate boot, which has been put to the test in some pressure situations. His kicking out of hand has also been a highlight, while his distribution has suited the Cheetahs’ expansive inclinations.
The greatest contribution from the Ebersohn twins arrived in the fixture against the Crusaders. Sias scored 23 points while Robert crossed for a try in the historic 33-20 victory. It was a match where the Cheetahs struck the right balance between playing for territory and keeping the ball in hand, and due credit went to Sias at the final whistle. All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter may have shone with a few neat touches but it was Sias that walked away with the Man of the Match honours.
The Cheetahs have been reluctant to back young flyhalves in recent seasons, instead opting for safe and seasoned men like Olivier, Louis Strydom and Willem de Waal. They were at their most dangerous when Jacques-Potgieter played 10, and Sias Ebersohn seems to be in the same mould. The significant difference is that he has the boot to complement his attacking game.
The Sharks boast a number of big names up front, but the Cheetahs will feel that they have the synergy to trouble the visitors at the set-piece. If they build some momentum from these primary platforms, then they have a game-manager in Sias Ebersohn capable of taking the right options. If they keep ball in hand, then they have a strike runner in Robert Ebersohn capable of splitting that fragile Sharks midfield.
The Sharks could do with five log points, but their situation is such that four points from a Bloemfontein visit would be a significant achievement. Expect to see a clash of styles as the Sharks try to stifle and outmuscle the Cheetahs, who through the Ebersohn twins and several other exciting players will be looking to play at breakneck speed.
The Cheetahs will enjoy a bye next week before hosting the Stormers for the final game of the league stage. They have two opportunities now to show that pragmatic rugby can be exciting, and that exciting rugby can win matches.