Cheetahs halfbacks to mix it up

Hawies Fourie tells JON CARDINELLI that the Cheetahs will persist with a more balanced approach in an attempt to rattle the Stormers’ defence.

Saturday’s match in Bloemfontein is being billed as attack versus defence, as the free-running Cheetahs will go up against the tough-tackling Stormers. Because the Cheetahs have no chance of qualifying for the play-offs, they are expected to attack from all corners. Because the Stormers are yet to confirm a spot in the semi-finals, they are expected to err on the side of caution.

Speaking to keo.co.za, Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie denied that the Cheetahs have nothing to lose. He said that there’s always more at stake in a South African derby, and that there’s still something to play for in the context of the competition.

Because the Cheetahs’ desire to win outweighs their desire to entertain, they may also employ a more balanced style of play.

‘If we win this Saturday, it will be a record for us in terms of the most wins [six] in a Super Rugby season,’ Fourie said. ‘There is also something else to consider: If the Reds beat the Chiefs and the Crusaders beat the Hurricanes, and then we beat the Stormers, we will finish in the top 10 on the combined log.

‘We will play like we played against the Bulls and Sharks. You have to vary your play against a tough defensive team like the Stormers. There will be a fair amount of tactical kicking, but then we don’t want to give them too many chances to counter-attack. We also want to play to our strengths of keeping ball in hand.’

Fourie highlighted the importance of the Cheetahs halfback combination of Sarel Pretorius and Sias Ebersohn. Once Pretorius breaks the first line of defence, the Cheetahs’ support runners are especially good at keeping that momentum going. Ebersohn has also brought something extra to the Cheetahs’ attack in 2011, and could be the difference if his forwards provide him with a good platform.

‘Sarel and Sias have combined well, and are obviously key men for us,’ said Fourie. ‘Sias’s goal-kicking has come on nicely as has his tactical kicking and distribution. His brother Robert has also been playing much better since Sias was brought into the team. Sias creates space for those outside runners to make an impact.

‘He has a good head on his shoulders and makes the right decisions more often than not. That will be important this Saturday; guys like Sias and Sarel have to make the call whether to kick or run.’

Going by how the Stormers performed against the Bulls, the Cheetahs shouldn’t be worried about a counter-attack. The Bulls peppered the Stormers’ back three with high balls and the home side obliged with a series of mistakes. When they caught the ball cleanly, the Stormers never looked like threatening on the counter-attack.

Coach Allister Coetzee has since made several changes to his backline, and on paper they look a more dangerous prospect. Gio Aplon is at fullback while Jean de Villiers has moved to wing to accommodate Juan de Jongh at No 12.

‘Those selections suggest they will look for the four-try bonus point,’ said Fourie. ‘De Jongh has great feet and they’ll look to him to break the line and provide them with some momentum. At the back, Gio Aplon can really punish you if you don’t kick accurately.

‘It’s going to be a test for our defence. We can’t sit back and wait for them, we will have to put them under pressure.’

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