Cheetahs need to break defensive trends
3 May 2012
GARETH DUNCAN says the Cheetahs will endure another disappointing season because of their weak defence.
It’s well-known that the Cheetahs are the people’s favourite Super Rugby team in the Republic, mainly because of their expansive approach. Their ability to score tries and counter-attack from all parts of the field makes their game plan the most attractive in the country – some would even suggest in the competition.
By looking at their records, it’s hard to argue against that statement. Last season, they scored the most tries in the South African conference and the fourth most in Super Rugby (44). In 2012 so far, they have crossed the chalk on 22 occasions in their nine fixtures.
However, they have failed to turn this effective attack into general success. The Cheetahs’ team goals each year is to qualify for the play-offs, but their highest tournament finish is 10th (this was achieved in 2006). In 2011, they finished 11th, and they are currently in the same position in this year’s standings after only claiming three wins.
This is because of their poor defensive showings, which has become a disappointing trend. While the Cheetahs scored 44 tries last season, they conceded 49. They have also leaked 26 this year (four more than the tally they have scored).
The Cheetahs’ defensive concerns were evident in their last two defeats against the Chiefs and Highlanders in Bloemfontein. These could’ve easily been two victories for the home side, but letting in three tries in the final quarters of each match cost them. The Chiefs were 25-20 behind on the scoreboard shortly after the break but won 39-33, while the Highlanders recorded an unlikely comeback win when they broke down a 30-9 second-half deficit and triumphed 36-33.
At the higher levels of rugby, a superior defence is crucial. This is why the Stormers are on top of the South African conference, despite failing to record a four-try bonus point this year. The Cape franchise have achieved regular success after establishing an effective defensive system.
Right now, the Cheetahs don’t have a similar structure in place. Head coach Naka Drotske revealed earlier in the week that individual errors cost them against the Highlanders as certain players didn’t stick to the plan. This highlights a lack of a tried and tested system.
Until these defensive issues are rectified, the Cheetahs’ hopes of qualifying for the Super Rugby play-offs will always be wishful thinking. Expect another finish in the bottom half of the log for the men from Bloem this season.