Cape Town - The Cheetahs will take a more measured approach on their three-match PRO14 tour starting this weekend, with incoming coach Hawies Fourie looking to be tactically astute as they move to Northern Hemisphere conditions.
The Cheetahs face Irish side Connacht in their first tour game on Saturday, with it also being Fourie’s first game in charge as coach and while the Bloemfontein side have been scoring tries almost at will on the Highveld, they are likely to be more circumspect in Autumn conditions up north.
Fourie has a tough task blending his own coaching style with the free-flowing style that saw the Cheetahs romp to the Currie Cup title under Franco Smith and score three big victories in the opening three rounds of the competition.
And while many of their fans may expect the attacking style to continue, Fourie believes they need to box clever if they are to be successful on the wetter, heavier fields up north.
The new coach admitted he was feeling “jittery” after the first coaching session, but the nerves had calmed by Tuesday as the team prepared to depart for Ireland.
“I’m feeling a lot better after today’s session and up until yesterday execution wasn’t good. Some of the players were a bit jittery. We’ve kept most of the things the same, but we did change one or two things and emphasised one or two things that they didn’t emphasise previously. Everyone is a bit jittery in how we want to play but this morning was a lot better,” Fourie said.
“It is focus on something else. When we play in the Northern Hemisphere it is very important to have a very good kicking game, something we didn’t focus on in our home games. There we tried to run the opposition ragged and used the altitude to our advantage, but when we go over we will have to have a good kicking game, and that was the main difference in our focus from the first three games to the tour.
“The important thing for me is not to take too many chances in our own 22m area and to be organised when we want to kick. Who chases the ball and who stays behind, for instance? It was something we spent a lot of time on, but we aren’t going to be like Faf de Klerk and kick every ball we get.
“We are also not going to take too many chances in our own half.”
But that isn’t saying that the Cheetahs are going to abandon their free-flowing style that has won them so many plaudits thus far this season. They simply want to be tactically smarter about it.
“We will have to adapt to the conditions,” Fourie added, “If it’s a nice clear day then we will run the ball but if it is raining and windy, then we will adapt to that, and we will have a bit more of a structured kicking game, and try and play in the opposition half and put the pressure on them. The rest of our game will stay precisely the same.”
The game will also be the last match for stalwart Ox Nche, who with flanker Henco Venter joins the Super Rugby side, the Sharks in November ahead of the 2019 Super Rugby season. Fourie said while there was no emotion, they wanted to make Nche’s farewell a special one.
“Ox is not really a very emotional guy, but the guys did do something for him and Henco (Venter) to say thank you from the team. Henco was more emotional than Ox, he tends to take it in his stride, but it isn’t very easy for him to move on and he has made his decision. But I didn’t get the idea it was a big emotional thing.”
The Cheetahs face Connacht at 18:15, South African time on Saturday. The game will be broadcast live on Supersport.