Cheetahs eye Hurricanes' flaws
Bloemfontein - The Cheetahs will target the Hurricanes in the scrums and make use of their rolling maul in order to achieve their eighth win in Super Rugby this season when they host the visitors in the Free State Stadium on Friday evening in Bloemfontein.
Playing with the same tight five over the last couple of weeks, the Cheetahs have settled nicely into their scrums and mauls and coach Naka Drotske believed the Hurricanes were most vulnerable in both areas.
"We've looked at the Hurricanes at scrum time and know we want to take them on up front. Their stopping of the maul also looks suspect so we are definitely going to attack them there, Drotske said on Thursday.
"But we have to keep the ball through the phases. The Hurricanes have conceded some tries during the competition so, if we manage to keep the ball through five or more phases, we know we will be rewarded."
The Hurricanes would be looking to bounce back after being hammered 48-14 by the Bulls last weekend, but the Cheetahs, who had a bye the previous week, were wise enough not to read too much into the result at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
"If you watch the video of the Hurricanes' game against the Bulls, those two intercept tries took the game away from them.
"You can't read too much into the final score against the Bulls. The Hurricanes can be up by 14 points very quickly if you allow their outside backs into the game.
"We know if you want to beat a New Zealand side you must be 100 percent switched on, both in defence and attack."
The Hurricanes would be without experienced centre and captain Conrad Smith, who received a head knock against the Bulls, and the Cheetahs hoped to benefit from his absence in midfield.
"I do think they will miss Conrad Smith. He has got a lot of experience and he is a world class player and his team mates respect him," Drotske said.
"His absence is a setback for them and we must make use of the opportunity."
The Cheetahs were second in the South African conference and among the top six sides on the overall points log -- in stark contrast with their tenth place finish last year.
A victory against the 11th placed Hurricanes would be a good beginning to a crucial couple of weeks if the hosts wanted to move into the knockout stages.
"You have to win your home games and we've got three of those out of the next four so it's a very important stretch for us over the next couple of weeks," said the coach.
"Last year, we lost crucial matches where we were leading in the last couple of minutes whereas this year, we've managed to beat our opponents in the same situation.
"I think a lot of the players have matured and with that comes added experience. We have the same squad as last year and haven't lost a lot of players. We've learned a lot since then and it shows."