Niggle could spill over in 'dogfight take two'
PRO14 REACTION: Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie said he hoped the ‘spiteful’ nature of this past weekend’s game will not spill over into their return fixture.
Veteran Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar kicked an injury-time conversion – after fullback Rhyno Smith scored a late double – to secure the Cheetahs a 31-30 win over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.
The two teams will face off again in the second of their catch-up fixtures – while the Pro14 is on a Six Nations hiatus – in Bloemfontein this coming Saturday.
While the veteran No.9’s influence on the game in PE was highlighted, the Cheetahs coach, Fourie, said he hopes there will be less niggle this week.
“There are only two South African teams in the Pro14 and there is always that bit of niggle between guys that know each other,”Fourie said of a battle between two teams with several players that have changed sides.
Former Kings in the Cheetahs team include flank Junior Pokomela and lock Sintu Manjezi.
Manjezi and Kings flank Ruaan Lerm have a bit of a history – the result of a scrap at a Kings training session back in 2016.
Manjezi happily ‘intervened’ when Lerm and Pokomela seemed to ‘reacquaint’ themselves with each other this past weekend.
“It wasn’t too bad,” Fourie said, adding: “Hopefully next week the guys will focus on the game a bit more and leave those personal battles on the sidelines.”
The Cheetahs coach described his team’s scrappy win as a ‘dogfight’, but praised Pienaar – who came on as a second-half replacement – for his composure.
The Cheetahs were trailing 12-27 when Pienaar replaced Tian Meyer with just under half-an-hour remaining on the clock.
Fourie admitted their expected another close game, even though the Cheetahs had never been beaten by the Kings.
“The [winning margin in the] previous three games was an average of five points, and now it is down to four,” the coach said.
“It is always a dogfight in Port Elizabeth.
“The Kings played really well and we made a lot of mistakes – which gifted them points, especially in the first half.
“There was three soft tries we gifted them that made the game difficult for us.”
Most of his praise was reserved for Pienaar.
“I was with Ruan in Cardiff – during a media day – and they asked him in two of the interviews about kicks he converted in finals, under pressure.
“It is great to have a guy with that sort of experience and I trust in him taking that kick,” he said about the scrumhalf’s match-winning conversion.
“It is the difference between five log points and two log points. It was a really important kick for us.”
Fourie praised the Kings’ game plan and said the team had progressed this season.
“I feel – especially in the first half – they dominated the contact on attack and defence, and their line-out functioned well.
“They had us under pressure for many moments in the game. They are definitely making progress, there is a nice vibe in the camp and they will do well going forward.”