Cheetahs face uphill battle
Johann de Jager
Bloemfontein – The Cheetahs may have been depleted by injuries, but coach Naka Drotské is still determined that they achieve their main goal of winning overseas for the first time.
Drotské warned that the Cheetahs are usually at their most dangerous in their first tour game, which is against the Waratahs on Saturday.
After that they play the Brumbies before crossing the Tasman Sea to New Zealand for games against the Crusaders and Chiefs.
The Cheetahs are facing an uphill struggle without a number of their stars.
Drotské said that they don’t have the depth of other teams.
Loose forwards Heinrich Brüssow (knee) and Frans Viljoen (cheekbone), lock David de Villiers (shoulder) and wing Lionel Mapoe (shoulder) all have serious injuries, while the Cheetahs are also departing without captain Juan Smith.
Smith withdrew shortly before Friday’s match against the Reds to visit his father, who was in critical condition in hospital.
Drotské confirmed that Smith would not play against the Waratahs this week and that he may join the side for the match against the Brumbies.
It appears as if the Waratahs will also have to make do without captain Phil Waugh.
He injured a leg in the win over the Blues and will have a scan on Monday.
“It will help if he does not play as he is a world class player,” said Drotské.
The Cheetahs only managed two wins in their first six games in South Africa and will now throw everything at achieving their first win overseas.
“We have come very close in the past, but have never managed a win and it will be our goal,” said Drotské.
“It’s a dangerous game to tell players that we are targeting this or that game because then they may have the approach that we don’t have to win the others. We will take things week by week.
“The first game on tour has always been the best for us and the one that we have come closest to winning. It’s important therefore that we start the tour well against the Waratahs.”
Fullback Hennie Daniller and wing Jongi Nokwe are available again after recovering from injuries.
Bjorn Basson shone against the Reds in Nokwe’s absence, but was not on the plane on Sunday.
Drotské said that he had been picked in the touring squad, but due to personal reasons decided to stay at home.