Vodacom Super Rugby
Cheetahs halfbacks a threat
Bloemfontein – The Stormers may have Rassie Erasmus’s considerable rugby intellect at their disposal, but he is yet to come up against the Cheetahs’ unpredictable halfback pairing.
Sarel Pretorius and Sias Ebersohn’s excellent form is integral to the Cheetahs’ attacking approach and poses a new challenge to the Stormers in the second derby match between the teams in the 2011 Super Rugby tournament.
The results between the teams since Erasmus joined Western Province – first as senior professional coach and now in the position of director of rugby – probably means that the visitors won’t be losing too much sleep ahead of Saturday’s match.
The Cheetahs have only won twice in matches between the teams since Erasmus moved to the Cape. They have never been able to win in Super Rugby and their only victories were in Currie Cup matches against WP in 2009 and 2010.
However, Ebersohn and Co are a new test for the Stormers in Erasmus’s erstwhile backyard – he previously coached the Cheetahs.
In the first match between the teams this year – which the Stormers won 21-15 at Newlands – the Cheetahs played with Pretorius and the consistent Naas Olivier.
Since then Pretorius has stepped forward as one of the tournament’s leading try-scorers, increased his market value and is on the shopping list of numerous teams.
The scrumhalf and Bulls wing Bjorn Basson are the tournament’s leading try-scorers with nine apiece.
Ebersohn grabbed his first decent chance in Super Rugby. His goalkicking improved and he is the general that is giving the Cheetahs direction in their running rugby.
However, it’s as a combination that Pretorius and Ebersohn have developed into an attacking weapon. Both keep defenders guessing and create opportunities for team-mates.
Cheetahs backline coach Hawies Fourie said that it was the unpredictability of Pretorius and Co that got the team on the front foot this year.
“Sarel keeps two or three defenders around the ruck busy and often creates holes for his team-mates.
Sias is also playing good attacking rugby, has a good pass and is controlling play well. Both are unpredictable and create opportunities for outside backs,” said Fourie.
“Then we have someone like Riaan Viljoen, who is also having a very good season.”
Fourie also believes that less injuries among the Cheetahs’ backline players compared to their forwards has ensured that there is better inter-play between the backs.
“The reason our backline is doing so well is that they are regularly getting the ball on the front foot from the forwards. That, coupled with our halfback pairing playing so well, has made it possible for the backline to play attacking rugby.”
Fourie believes that the expected return of Dewaldt Duvenage and Peter Grant as Stormers halfback pairing will boost the visitors.