VIDEO: The real progress the Cheetahs made
The Challenge Series, hosted by the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, may have planted the seeds of a new international competition.
However, the real ‘progress’ was on the field, where Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie believes they laid a solid foundation to launch a serious challenge in next year’s Currie Cup.
The Cheetahs played five matches of contrasting levels of competitiveness – beating a Zimbabwe selection 78-7, lost 30-31 to Western Province, demolishing a Barcelona Diables scratch team 99-15, impressed by beating a strong Sharks XV 40-34 and finished off with an impressive 54-5 rout of the Romanian club champions Baia Mare.
With massive cash incentives, the series was billed as the forerunner of new ‘international’ competitions for the game post COVID.
Representatives from international stakeholders, SA Rugby and other countries met during the November series to discuss the finances, the logistics and the competition formats of a future tournament, the Intercontinental Shield.
“The goal is to create a high-level competition that will grow in stature over time and eventually link up with other competitions to create aspirational play-off opportunities for participating teams,” a statement, issued by the organisers last week, said.
It is believed it will eventually be a pathway back into European competitions – such as the European Challenge Cup.
The Cheetahs had hoped to sneak into Europe’s second-tier competition for the 2021/22 season, but that door was firmly shut on them.
Instead, they focussed on their preparations for the 2022 Currie Cup competition, hoping for a vast improvement on their 2021 campaign – where they finished second from last, with just three wins from 12 matches.
Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie said the entire November series provided the opportunities and answers they needed for growth.
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“We wanted to give the entire squad some game time, which we managed in this series,” Fourie told @rugby365com.
“When you play in the Currie Cup – or any important competition – you can’t always give game time to all the players.”
The Cheetahs coach admitted the quality of their games were not all up to the expected standard, with the highlight being the performance against the Sharks.
He felt it was great ‘preparation’ for the Currie Cup competition, scheduled to start in mid-January.
“It is very different when you prepare for games than just training in pre-season,” Fourie said, adding: “This will really help us in about six weeks.”
Fourie revealed that the last outing, against Baia Mare, was an indication of the type of game they want to play – an expansive, high-tempo style.
He said the ‘talk at half-time’ against the Romanian outfit was to eliminate the mistakes, because it was preventing them from playing at their own pace.
“We had to make a step up at the breakdown and on attack, we had to keep the tempo high to keep them under pressure,” the coach said.
The other aspects that needed improvements were the set pieces and he felt they continued to show growth in those departments.
“When we have possession, we can control the tempo of the game,” he added.