Cheetahs shine in Cape sun
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - The
Cheetahs, perhaps with just a hint of a Super Rugby survival threat
beginning to prey on their minds, are clearly determined to hit the 2012
conference trail running.
That much seemed apparent in their
pre-season match against the Stormers on a sun-soaked Newlands evening
on Saturday, with Naka Drotske’s charges presumably well chuffed about
prevailing 22-14 before a crowd of almost 11 000.
respects it was a “both teams win” sort of outing, nevertheless, as the
hosts, last season’s best South African team in the competition, put out
a starting XV considerably more second-string in nature than the
Cheetahs combination yet hung in there quite pleasingly for the lion’s
share of the game.
Of Saturday’s Stormers side, only captain
Schalk Burger, who played for about 70 minutes with typical ruggedness
and gusto, is absolutely guaranteed to be a first-choice when the
Hurricanes come to town in three weeks for the opening fixture of the
So the fact that it was a largely ding-dong affair
until four minutes from the last siren -- when substitute flyhalf Sias
Ebersohn landed a penalty to take the gap between the teams to eight
points for the first time -- meant the hosts’ management could mostly
take positive elements from the exercise.
Certainly there are
heaps of Stormers greenhorns, across the park, who look as though they
may well blossom if pitted alongside some wise old heads in Super Rugby,
even if they would understandably not quite be ready yet as a mass
youthful entity to knock over the bigger ‘uns in the competition.
the Cheetahs, meanwhile, this was a heartening display, considering
that with the Southern Kings muscling into the picture next season, six
South African teams may suddenly be scrapping for only five berths if
SANZAR stubbornly refuses to expand further the 15-team set-up.
unjustly, the ever-spirited central franchise may become an endangered
species, or have to pally up awkwardly to the Lions for a two-in-one
combo once more.
But if they are defiant in their quest to remain a credible standalone force, this was a good way to demonstrate it.
had an edge in good real estate, and made a vital nuisance of
themselves on the opposition throw at the lineouts, where Izak van der
Westhuizen was prominent as a poacher.
The encounter was by no
means a classic, although you do not expect that sort of phenomenon in
the sweaty first week of February and from a defensive organisation
point of view the Cheetahs, especially, looked resolute and competent.
sense increasingly that the Stormers will be trying to put the ball
through hands more prolifically than they did last year, even from
long-range positions, so the fact that they struggled to manufacture
high-tempo overlaps or explosive incursions off pop passes was a tribute
to the visitors’ tenacity and awareness in tackle situations.
was one try apiece, with the critical difference being the
dynamite-laden boot of Cheetahs No 10 Johan Goosen, who accounted for 14
points through three penalties, a dropped goal and the conversion of
Rocco Jansen’s touchdown.
He is an incredibly talented youngster,
even if sometimes you feel he puts a tad too much faith in his ability
to kick the leather off the ball out of his hand.
overdid an often misdirected up-and-under, in situations where a crisp
pass to his three-quarters appeared a wiser course of action, but these
are simply rough edges you would expect from a customer starting just
his second season at first-class level.
The fixture had a
stop-start characteristic, despite both teams’ best intentions for
positivity, with Craig Joubert frequently penalising the Stormers at the
Sadly this was yet another modern rugby match, too,
where lovers of a good scrummaging contest would have left frustrated
and disillusioned: there were engagement offences aplenty, and in the
rare instances where we did get a stage further than that, invariably a
front row collapse would spoil the spectacle anyway.
This phase is a shambles, pretty much worldwide, and needs urgent remedial action.
the whole, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee is unlikely to lose too much
sleep over this little hiccup: his extended squad have had three
satisfactory gallops now, winning two of them, and with essential,
gnarly forward components like Andries Bekker and Duane Vermeulen about
to come out of injury-enforced hibernation, some of Saturday’s little
gremlins ought to quickly be ironed out anyway ...
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