A lot at stake for Cheetahs
Johannesburg - The Cheetahs might be out of the race but they still have a lot to play for when they meet the Bulls in a Super Rugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
A victory over their arch enemies would be there sixth of the season and, in the process, they would top their best performance to date in Super Rugby.
The Cheetahs’ achieved five overall victories in 2007, 2008 and 2011 and, with only three matches left in the season, they would like to get that statistic out of the way.
“We’re very excited to be going to Pretoria,” said Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske.
“Only two of our players were involved with the Boks recently and the rest of the squad have prepared well and also got some necessary rest.
“We need one win to make it our best season yet and we’re very motivated to go to Loftus and do well.”
The Bulls, however, have much more than mere win records at stake as they could cement their place in this season’s playoffs.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke’s charges are well aware of the different permutations which could result from this weekend's matches.
“We are definitely aware of the situation and we are just going to take it game by game,” said Ludeke earlier this week.
“It is more a mental thing but the Cheetahs [match] is the vital one…we must be accurate and we want to be successful and we will need a huge effort.
“We know we will have to play the full 80 minutes but we are looking forward to it.”
The Bulls have lost their last three games on the trot by small margins but they cannot afford to slip in the final stretch of this year’s competition.
The Pretoria-based side dictated proceedings when the two sides’ first met this season, romping to a 51-19 victory in Bloemfontein in March.
The Cheetahs, however, have kicked on since then and can count themselves unlucky not to enjoy a more favourable position on the Super Rugby log.
The side’s aptitude for playing attacking rugby has won them many supporters across the rugby divide.
While they play an attractive brand of rugby, it has not translated into victories and, on Saturday, they would like to prove that teams can play an expansive game and still win.
The fact that they have never won a Super Rugby match against the Bulls will also be an added incentive for the Cheetahs.
Ludeke said he expected the Cheetahs to continue to throw the ball around and they would be mindful of the challenge that they would pose to his side.
“They've played with a lot of freedom in their last few games and they are obviously not going for the playoffs anymore,” said Ludeke.
“You can see they are preparing for a Currie Cup campaign and ... they give the ball a lot of air.
“They play a lot with counter-attacking out of their own half and they always have a good set piece.
"With their tactical game there are a lot of contestable kicks.”
Ludeke said the gain line battle would be crucial, while they would also need to be accurate in their set pieces.
“So that is where we want to be and make sure we get quality possession for us to attack from,” he said.