Send us your Two Oceans pics!

Will you be taking part in the Two Oceans Marathon? If so, send your pics to sport@news24.co.za - and we'll include you in our gallery!

LIVE

    Cheetahs gunning for glory

    2014-02-11 20:28
    Post a comment

    Bloemfontein - Their surprise rise in the Super Rugby ranks in 2013 has created expectations of the Cheetahs to prove their playoff berth was not merely a flash in the pan.

    While the Bloemfontein franchise always rode the wave of being potential giant killers they were never considered title contenders.

    Eight years since making their debut as a fully fledged Super Rugby franchise, the Cheetahs finally matured into a team able to challenge their more revered peers in 2013.

    Forever the darlings of Super Rugby because of their running brand of rugby, the Cheetahs added a solid defensive system to their arsenal.

    Cheetahs defence guru Michael Horak ensured the team leaked fewer tries, while conditioning coach Neil du Plessis remedied the side's almost chronic injury problems.

    In the past the Bloemfontein side would bemoan their debilitating injury list that ultimately chipped away at their already fragile player depth.

    Cheetahs' assistant coach Hawies Fourie said with fewer injuries they could also build consistency in their team selections.

    "The moment you get into a winning habit, the confidence is on the up while fewer injuries gives you continuity.

    "'The guys get to know each other better instead of having to build a new team every year."

    The changes in the team dynamic translated into better performances, which resulted in the team reaching the playoffs of the 2013 season.

    They lost to eventual losing finalists, the Brumbies, for a sixth place finish overall.

    The Cheetahs will go into this year's campaign a more settled side and are hopeful to continue their successes from last season.

    Fourie said the team aimed to finish first in the South African conference, enhancing their chances of making a serious claim for the title.

    "Last year we've shown what we are capable of. In the past we've conceded soft tries in matches we were leading, so we've improved a lot from that point of view," Fourie said ahead of the team's opening match against the Lions in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

    "The fact that we came so close to winning our quarterfinal against the Brumbies in Canberra had given us confidence and the appetite for more."

    He said the experience of travelling to Australia for the Brumbies clash, which they narrowly lost 15-13, gave the team a new perspective on what it would take to be serious title contenders.

    While claiming the South African conference was easier said than done, it would eliminate travelling across time zones and bring home field advantage.

    Springbok fullback Willie le Roux was mostly used on the wing and would be used in the last line of defence where he made an impressive debut for the national side.

    The back three of Le Roux, Raymond Rhule and Springbok Sevens player Cornal Hendricks on the wings are potential game breakers.

    The central franchise may have lost reliable centre Robert Ebersohn to French Top 14 club Montpellier at the end of the Currie Cup season, but gained the services of Bulls midfielder Francois Venter.

    Venter, a product of Grey College in Bloemfontein, should form a formidable combination with Johan Sadie.

    The Cheetahs lost scrumhalf Piet van Zyl to the Bulls, but new recruit Shaun Venter from the Southern Kings would supply cover in this position along with Sarel Pretorius

    Griquas centre Howard Mnisi, who impressed in last year's Currie Cup, was expected to feature in the side.

    In captain Adriaan Strauss the side had an inspirational leader, who led from the front and had international experience.

    The Cheetahs suffered an early injury blow last year when Springbok flyhalf Johan Goosen suffered a knee injury early in the season on their tour of Australasia. Burton Francis and Elgar Watts, however, proved to be more than capable replacements.

    While Francis has since left for French club side Agen, Goosen was back to wearing the number 10 jersey with Watts a solid backup.

    Fourie said part of the success in 2013 came down to the forwards pulling their weight and he was confident the pack would give his backline go-forward ball.

    "You can have the best backline in the competition but it means nothing without quality possession," he said.

    "We had guys like Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne and Lood de Jager that made their mark last year, who did not have Super Rugby exposure."

    He said the experience these players gained from last year would hold them in good stead during the 2014 campaign.

    Read News24’s Comments Policy

    24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

    Comment on this story
    101 comments
    Add your comment
    Comment 0 characters remaining
    Live Video Streaming
    Video Highlights
    Sport Talk

    Fixtures

    19 April 2014
    • Sharks v Cheetahs, Durban 15:00
    • Stormers v Lions, Cape Town 17:05
    25 April 2014
    • Blues v Waratahs, Auckland 07:35
    • Brumbies v Chiefs, Canberra 09:40
    • Sharks v Highlanders, Durban 19:10
    26 April 2014
    • Hurricanes v Reds, Wellington 09:35
    • Western Force v Bulls, Perth 11:40
    • Cheetahs v Stormers, Bloemfontein 17:05

    Results

    19 April 2014
    18 April 2014
    12 April 2014
    11 April 2014
    05 April 2014
    04 April 2014
    29 March 2014
    28 March 2014
    22 March 2014
    21 March 2014
    15 March 2014
    14 March 2014
    08 March 2014
    07 March 2014
    01 March 2014
    28 February 2014
    23 February 2014
    22 February 2014
    21 February 2014
    15 February 2014

    Logs

    Rank Team P W Pts

    EXPERT OPINION

    “The Sharks as SA’s lone playoffs side for the first time in Super Rugby’s conference format is a fair possibility, warns Rob Houwing.”

    Opinion Poll

    Which teams will win the two SA Vodacom Super Rugby derbies (Sharks v Cheetahs and Stormers v Lions) this weekend?

    Monday Quiz Madness!

    TAKE THE QUIZ
    There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.