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VIDEO: Cheetahs park 'fear factor' and 'big guy' syndrome

The Cheetahs head back to France just over a year after their heartbreaking exit from the Challenge Cup in 2023.

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On Saturday they will tackle another French team – Clermont Auvergne at Stade Marcel-Michelin – in the Round of 16.

A wide-eyed Cheetahs team fought gamely against a star-studded Toulon team last year, but ultimately succumbed 21-36 in the second tier of Europe’s showcase tournaments.

Sixteen players who ran out at Stade Felix Mayol 12 months ago will return for another crack at reaching the quarterfinals.

Tapiwa Mafura, Daniel Kasende, Munier Hartzenberg, Reinhardt Fortuin, Ruan Pienaar, Jeandré Rudolph, Teboho Mohoje, Gideon van der Merwe, Victor Sekekete (captain), Hencus van Wyk and Schalk Ferreira all started against Toulon last year.

Marko Janse van Rensburg, Alulutho Tshakweni, Mzwanele Zito, Sibabalo Qoma and Rewan Kruger came off the bench.

They were named in the 25-man touring squad that departed Bloemfontein, bound for Clermont on Tuesday.

(WATCH as new Cheetahs coach Izak van der Westhuizen explains the value of having played and lost to a star-studded Toulon in a Challenge Cup Round of 16 encounter last year….)

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“That experience counts a lot,” coach Izak van der Westhuizen said, ahead of the team’s departure for Clermont and a face-off at Stade Marcel-Michelin.

“That ‘big guy’ syndrome is not there this year.

“They know what to expect and they know the conditions.

“That experience counts a lot.”

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The real challenge will be the mindset of the fickle French.

They are either superheated or blasé.

Van der Westhuizen said a lot of their focus this week went into ‘game management’ – what areas of the field they want to play in and how they want to play.

That means tactical kicking will be key.

“In Europe, it is not like here [in South Africa], where you can run everywhere,” he told @rugby365com.

“You have to use the kicking game to your advantage – figure out how to manipulate the game.”

Louis van der Westhuizen will play in his 50th match for the Cheetahs this weekend.

He became a vital cog in the Cheetahs system overnight.

Seasoned hooker Marnus van der Merwe has been ruled out of the trip with a calf injury – suffered a 76-5 win over the Leopards in a South African Cup (domestic) match in Potchefstroom this past weekend.

The match and the 38-7 demolition of the Boland Cavaliers a week earlier were part of the team’s preparation for their European outing.

Van der Merwe, capped more than 50 times for the Cheetahs in European and domestic competitions, has been a crucial cog in the Cheetahs’ set-up.

Although he has signed to join Scarlets in Wales later this year, he brings the experience they will need in Clermont.

Marko Janse van Rensburg will go as the backup hooker to the Namibian international Van der Westhuizen.

The 25-man touring squad is: Aranos Coetzee, Schalk Ferreira, Reinhardt Fortuin, Munier Hartzenberg, Marko Janse van Rensburg, Daniel Kasende, Rewan Kruger, Andell Loubser, George Lourens, Tapiwa Mafura, Teboho Mohoje, Litha Nkula, Friedle Olivier, Ruan Pienaar, Sibabalo Qoma, Jeandre Rudolph, Victor Sekekete (captain), Alulutho Tshakweni, Laurens Victor, Gideon van der Merwe, Louis van der Westhuizen, Abner van Reenen, Hencus van Wyk, Carl Wegner, Mzwanele Zito.

@king365ed
@rugby365com

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Challenge-Cup-Round-of-16-preview

Challenge-Cup-Round-of-16-preview

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