Cape Town - It may be a bold statement to make in round three of the PRO14, but Cheetahs fullback Rhyno Smith believes that his side
have the ability to win the championship this season, something they have never
Smith, who was part of the Cheetahs set-up last season,
feels the team has taken a massive step up and are playing with such confidence
that no result is beyond them.
Their demolition of Irish club Ulster last weekend followed
a similar big win over last season’s finalists Glasgow Warriors but the
Cheetahs will face a different enemy in unbeaten Irish side Munster in
Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Despite question marks if they will be able to transport
their free-flowing game to Europe, Smith believes they have the confidence to
“The guys believe now we can win this competition, we’ve won
South Africa’s domestic competition and just the confidence combined with that
and most of the guys have more than 20 caps in PRO14,” Smith said.
“They know what the weather is going to be like and they
know who they are playing against. They know what they can expect.
“So I think we believe for the first time in three years
that we can win.”
And four tries in two games underlines the fact that Smith is
in red-hot form at the moment, leading a number of the competition stats and he finally feels he has settled into a game plan that accentuates his strengths.
“I just think the Cheetahs are keen to play the ball and to
run. Everyone is on the same page and I think it suits my game a bit more than
the way we played at the Sharks. The fact that I’m getting picked makes a big
“The coaching and management staff all back me and want me
to play, and that makes a huge difference for a player. I really enjoy that and
it helps a lot.”
Smith knows just how tough it is to face the Cheetahs when
they are on a roll. He played for the Sharks in the Currie Cup and was on the
losing side as the Cheetahs romped towards the Currie Cup title. He believes
that opposition backs will struggle with the pace of the Bloemfontein side.
“I played Currie Cup against the Cheetahs five weeks ago and
I can tell you as a back the pace these guys play at is so difficult to keep up
with as an opposition player and an outside back. You are busy covering space
the whole time and by the time you get a one-on-one with a guy that breaks
through, you are so smashed that it is actually unfair to you.
“It is really difficult the way the Cheetahs play and
altitude helps them.”
But can the Cheetahs transfer their free-flowing game plan
to the different weather conditions of the European winter? Do they need to
change their spots, so to speak, to be more tactical in the winter rain and
sleet, and on the 4G pitches they will encounter? Smith doesn’t believe this
will be too much of a factor.
“The same question could be asked of the teams that tour
here. If they bring that brand to our country and it is summer, is it still
effective? If you do something well enough and it works, then you will be
okay,” he believes.
“We will change one or two things, but there probably will
be more changes changing from coach Franco (Smith) to coach Hawies (Fourie)
than there will be going from South Africa to Europe.
“I suspect we will stick to what we do well and what we know
well and just try and perfect it.”
For now it is Munster that looms large for the Cheetahs and
Smith can’t wait to get onto the field. The Irish side will be looking for a
third straight victory and will be full of confidence after coming off a win
against the Isuzu Southern Kings but Smith knows in the form the home side are
currently in, they won’t be scared of anything coming their way.
“I expect them to be a well-trained, well-oiled machine. You
kinda know what is coming, and you know you have to handle the aerial ball
well. But if they are going to kick we are going to have to make them pay,” he
And if he is able to get the ball in space, he may well be
able to add to his impressive try-scoring tally this weekend. And keep the
dream alive of bringing the PRO14 title to South Africa.