Cheetahs need to stress on defence

GARETH DUNCAN says the Cheetahs’ poor defensive structures cost them during their Super Rugby campaign.

It was another uninspiring Super Rugby campaign for the Cheetahs. After recording their most successful overseas tour to Australasia (which saw them return with 11 log points and wins over the Rebels and Hurricanes) they became rooted to the bottom-half of the table as they suffered regular losses. They finished in 10th place as they only managed five wins from their 16 league fixtures.

Looking at their season records, it’s clear that defence was the main issue. The Bloemfontein franchise scored 391 points and scored 35 tries, but conceded 458 points and 47 tries. The Cheetahs also imploded on several occasions. The most disappointing defeat came against the Highlanders at home, where they led 30-9 early in the second half before the visitors scored 27 points in the final quarter to edge a 36-33 win.

At Super Rugby level, the team with the better defensive structures will enjoy more success. The fact that the Stormers topped the overall log without a single four-try bonus point proves that.

Head coach Naka Drotske admitted that defence was one of his team’s main shortcomings.

‘Defence has been an issue for us since 2006,’ Drotske told keo.co.za. ‘It’s not acceptable that we concede so many points, because we do so well to score tries and to put ourselves in a winning position. But we are working on this and hopefully we will have the necessary solutions in place over the next couple of weeks.

‘We’ve also failed to close out those 50-50 games this season. We’ve lost many games at the death. Our losses to the Brumbies and Highlanders were very disappointing. Injuries also hurt us as we lost guys like flyhalf Johan Goosen and prop Coenie Oosthuizen.’

However, Drotske added that there were positives to point out.

‘We blooded many new youngsters. Our problems on defence and the ability to finish off matches when we are ahead will improve with experience. We fielded 11 players who are still U23 in our final game against the Sharks. They would’ve learnt a lot from that match and will continue to grow during the Currie Cup.’

This development process will be vital ahead of the 2013 Super Rugby season as the Cheetahs will lose several senior players. The likes of lock Izak van der Westhuizen (Edinburgh), tighthead prop WP Nel (Edinburgh), No 8 Ashely Johnson (London Wasps), lock George Earle (Scarlets) and flyhalf Sias Ebersohn (Western Force) have all confirmed their departures.

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