Discipline may have cost Cheetahs the title
REACTION: What initially appeared to be a minor ‘speed bump’ may turn out to be a nearly insurmountable hurdle for the Cheetahs.
After a winning start – in which they knocked over the Pumas (53-31) and Bulls (19-17) – the high-flying Cheetahs had their momentum halted when their Round Three encounter with the Lions was cancelled and declared a draw.
After the opening weeks of Super Rugby Unlocked, they still had their destiny in their own hands.
However, after the cancelled match followed a bye and the unexpected two-week break seemed to have halted any momentum the Bloemfontein franchise had built up.
Despite all the pre-match assurances the Cheetahs looked way off the pace against the Sharks in Durban last Friday and suffered a 13-19 loss that saw them drop from first (after two rounds) to fourth in the standings.
With no play-offs (the trophy is handed to the team at the top of the standings after seven rounds) the Cheetahs will require a small miracle if they are to catch the pace-setting Bulls in the next two weeks.
Despite the obvious issues surrounding the cancelled match and the bye, Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie is adamant that they are to blame for their own woes.
He pointed to the team’s discipline – or rather lack of it – as one of the reasons they lost to the Sharks, a game they could have won had it not been for a late scoring spree.
Leading 13-9 with less than 10 minutes remaining, the Cheetahs appeared to have secured victory.
However, a Madosh Tambwe try, converted Curwin Bosch, and a penalty by Bosch on the full-time hooter left the visitors with only a losing bonus point for their efforts.
The Cheetahs coach, Fourie, expressed his disappointment with the quality of his team’s performance.
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“It is always difficult in Durban this time of the year and it’s only going to get more difficult,” he said of the testing conditions in the coastal city.
“We had a game plan for how we wanted to play against the Sharks,” he said, adding: “We were in the lead with four minutes to go.
“We made an error right at the end, but in my opinion discipline cost us.
“Two yellow cards, plenty of penalties and a few missed opportunities, especially in the first half.”
Penalties and discipline have been an issue for the Cheetahs all season – even when they were winning.
They were penalised 15 times in the (53-31) win over the Pumas, conceded 13 penalties in the 19-17 victory against the Bulls (their best performance of the season) and 16 penalties in the loss to the Sharks.
“It is always difficult to know and to argue about penalties after a game,” the Cheetahs coach said.
“I would like to have a look at it first before I comment.
“In the Pro14 we were also one of the most penalised teams, so it’s a habit we’ve got to change.”
Cheetahs captain Junior Pokomela echoed similar sentiments.
“As coach said, our discipline was poor,” Pokomela said.
“I won’t say anything more about that, but those are the controllables.
“The Sharks handled the conditions better, they had a lot of opportunities and really executed.
“We only have ourselves to blame.”