Brenden Nel - SuperSport.com
Bloemfontein - Cheetahs coach Franco Smith has warned his players to be switched on from Monday or they “will get a big klap” against the Crusaders in Bloemfontein this weekend.
The unbeaten, high-flying New Zealand side is on route to Bloemfontein for the first game in their South African tour and after dishing out 50 points to the Stormers last weekend, look a mighty task for the Cheetahs this coming weekend.
But Smith isn’t daunted, and points to the team’s opening half against the Chiefs as proof that they can mix it up with the best, even though they lost the game in the end.
He did warn, however, that everything needs to be “switched on” the entire week to ensure they deliver a performance that is one of their best.
“If we wait until Friday or Saturday before we recover from this, we’re going to get a big klap,” he said of his team’s narrow loss to the Bulls this past weekend.
“We are going to do like we did against the Chiefs, play to where we are strong. I don’t think it will be difficult to get the players up again to play an international side, to play an All Black side will be a challenge.
“We did really well against the Chiefs but it is important now to bounce back on Monday, not with with an attitude but with the right attitude. That is important for the Cheetahs, we always want to be significant and make our supporters proud.
“We will not be able to wait until halfway through the week before we put this behind us.
“It is a tough competition, we’ve fought in every one with all our hearts and bodies and it will be important now to recover well. To make a plan, obviously we make a plan for every game, but to make us as competitive as possible so the devil will be a new plan.
“I’m excited to prep for the next one and these guys deserve a win. We have to prep the right way and with the right mindset, never to keep the score down or give the opposition too much respect. These guys have come a long way now, they’ve grown immense as people and players. We will take it as quickly as possible, and grab the opportunity by the horns.”
Smith said his team needed to overcome their own woes, as they have lost six games after leading this season. And he believes his charges deserve more than they are getting out of the competition right now.
“It is bad, there is a lot of hard work going in. I mean in six of the eight games thus far, we have led in the 74th minute. It is heartbreaking. I tip my hat for the players, they turn up every Monday and they put the work in, but it is disappointing. I think they deserve better for the hard work they put in.”
Smith did admit though, that it is tough with a looming exit from Super Rugby now that SA Rugby have decided to cut two teams. He said this was affecting his side’s performances.
“It’s tough, it sounds like we are putting an excuse out there but anyone who knows the mental side of the game, knows that playing out there, it is like having to stop at a traffic light. If it is Orange, you either go or you stop, there isn’t a right or a wrong, you must just do one.
“But if there is doubt, it leads to accidents. That is where we are at, we are doing the great things right but in a vital period in the game, we start looking at the scoreboard, we take into consideration all the support we have, we take into consideration everyone that works at the Cheetahs and unfortunately if you talk about it from Monday to Saturday, unfortunately it becomes a threat. We are playing not to lose rather than continuing to win.
“At this level, it is a tough thing to deal with at this stage, but the way we start every game, the way we play, the way we physically put ourselves out there, it means there is a lot of belief. There are a lot of good rugby players out there developing. It is a process but unfortunately we are not staring into the barrel.
“We had a four year plan, look where we came from two years ago, with young players from the Varsity Cup, the Currie Cup – all the right things are happening and now unfortunately the mental aspect is hitting us a bit. We are trying to deal with it, we spent a lot of time with our mental coach trying to put it to one side but unfortunately it is a big monkey sitting on our backs.
“Again we make errors through panicking. For example, the idea was to keep the ball between the two 15s in the last few minutes at all costs – it was a plan. Then Raymond saw the space and thought he was through and he was forced out and we end up losing the game. We wanted to keep the ball between the two 15s and we were half a metre away from scoring that try. So that little bit of patience, but we are so in need of that last metre that sometimes it influences your decision-making at crucial times.”
The Cheetahs will pick their side on Thursday for the match against the Crusaders.
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