Composure key for 'sudden death' Cheetahs
SPOTLIGHT: Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie used the word ‘composure’ to describe this past weekend’s drought-breaking Currie Cup win over the Pumas.
However, the coaching staff and players alike will require lots of composure in the next three weeks, if the defending champions are to remain in the play-off race.
With a steady stream of reports – via the media grapevines – of more high-profile departures, the Cheetahs find themselves in a precarious position.
With the threat of COVID-19-enforced cancellations and postponements ominously hanging over the tournament like a dreich, the Cheetahs simply have to win all three their remaining matches.
The Bulls (35 points – two games remaining) still top the standings.
They are followed by the Lions (29 points – two games remaining), Sharks (28 – three games), Western Province ( 26 – three) and Cheetahs (21 – three).
Despite finding themselves in a must-wing, knock-out type situation, the Cheetahs still have their destiny in their own hands.
They face two of the teams above them in the standings.
They are scheduled to host the Sharks (Sunday, December 27) and Western Province (Saturday, January 2) in back-to-back crunch games in Bloemfontein.
They complete their league fixtures with a trip to Kimberley and a Central Unions derby on Saturday, January 9.
Fourie admitted that his team started to show some of the fight they will require over the festive season, when they came from behind against the Pumas in Nelspruit last Friday.
“The big thing for me was the word ‘composure’,” Fourie said of his team’s 35-31 squeaker in a 10-try thriller.
“You have to keep thinking on your feet,” he said, pointing to a brain fade by lock Reniel Hugo – who, on the stroke of half-time, attempted a grubber and then held onto the ball on the ground.
The coach said against teams like the Sharks and WP they simply can’t afford to do “silly things”.
“We must trust ourselves and then be patient, hold onto the ball and place more pressure on the opposition.”
While Fourie can work on his team’s on-field conduct – such as discipline and composure – it is off the field where he is facing an ever-increasing crisis.
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Since the weekend the local media was again littered with reports of imminent departures from Bloemfontein – all, apparently, related to the Cheetahs’ axing from the Pro14.
The latest reports have it that hooker Jacques Du Toit (Bath) is heading to the Premiership in England and prop Boan Venter is also on the wishlist of several European clubs (Leicester Tigers, Gloucester and Edinburgh).
Flyhalf Tian Schoeman (Bath) and hooker Reinach Venter (Clermont Auvergne in France) have also taken up an ‘out clause’ in their contracts that allow them to head abroad if the Cheetahs no longer play Pro14.
Before that, it was confirmed that prop Luan de Bruin (Leicester Tigers, on a short-term deal before linking up with Edinburgh in Scotland) and lock Jean-Pierre du Preez (Sale Sharks) also departed.
The mass exodus started at the end of October – the usual time for contract renewals – when lock Walt Steenkamp (Bulls), No.8 Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) and centre Bernhard Janse van Rensburg (Green Rockets in Japan) all departed.
Before the revamped domestic season even resumed, the Cheetahs had lost quality players like hooker Joseph Dweba (to Bordeaux in France), Sintu Manjezi (Bulls) and wing Rabz Mazwane (Lions), while Gerhard Olivier, Justin Basson and Louis Fouche all retired.
— Toyota Cheetahs (@CheetahsRugby) December 20, 2020