Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske knows he may be going “into the unknown” when his team face a revamped Melbourne Rebels side on Friday, but has decided the team can only trust their own game plan to pull them through their first tour match in this year’s Super Rugby series.
According to the supersport.com website, Drotske’s team will face a Rebels side that has dumped key personnel such as James O’Connor, Kurtley Beale, Cooper Vuna and Gareth Delve during the off-season, changed coaching teams and possibly even sporting a new coaching philosophy as they open their Super Rugby campaign.
Add to that the fact that the Rebels started with a bye, and didn’t play last week, while the Cheetahs already have two games under their belt and it can be understood that Drotske and co aren’t sure what to expect when they get on the paddock on Friday morning (SA time).
But Drotske has told his team they need to focus on what they do well, and if they execute, they will be able to keep their 100% record against the Australians, having won all three meetings between the two sides before this clash.
“Guys like Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor are not there anymore and they’ve got a new coach, and had a bye last week when all the other teams played, so they’re tough to analyse. We did, however, get one of their warm-up games – the one they played against the Hurricanes – and we did a lot of our preparation around that,” Drotske told OFM.
“But still, it’s tough, it’s the first game, so we’ll basically focus on our own stuff and the way we want to play.”
Still buzzing from their big win over the Bulls last Friday, Drotske has told the players to reset the clock, and put it out of their minds, and is holding thumbs the first outing gives his team a boost in confidence and little injuries.
“The quicker we get the Bulls game out of our heads the better. The players did play well there, but this is a totally new challenge for us. We saw against the Lions in the first game what could happen and it is always more difficult to win overseas. It is therefore important that the players’ minds must be in the right space, and they must execute the game plan correctly. If they do that, I’m full of confidence that we can win the match.
“Injuries are one of those things that you can’t control and we’ve been very lucky in that regard. We’ve worked really hard on our conditioning since the end of last year, and it’s all about continuity - if we keep on going like this, without a lot of injuries, it will be great for us.”