Cheetahs adapt to new life running two teams
Whatever preconceived notions the Cheetahs had of playing in the PRO 14, in a fortnight following their introduction to the competition they have been challenged by their defeats to Ulster and Munster.
“It is a mindset change that we need to make‚” coach Rory Duncan conceded.
Duncan probably did not need to be told that his team‚ which usually revel in open spaces on hard South African soil‚ were going to be challenged at close combat in Europe.
“You have to front up to the physicality. You realise that you have to make adjustments when you play in the northern hemisphere. It is a lesson that we learnt,” he said.
The physicality of the PRO 14 was greater than that of Super Rugby‚ Duncan said, but he was quick to explain his sentiment.
“It is more physical than Super Rugby in the sense that they play more direct rugby. Super Rugby’s intensity is superior and the game is quicker. PRO 14 is not far off, though.”
Much had been made of the Cheetahs’ playing resources being spread thin across the PRO 14 and the Currie Cup, but the same applies to their coaching staff.
With more questions being asked of them in the tight exchanges‚ they could have done with greater input from their scrumming guru Daan Human, who has been seconded to the Currie Cup team.
“You do miss them‚” acknowledged Duncan about the men tasked with taking care of the Currie Cup team. “But we knew that this was going to be the case and accepted it.”
Having had something resembling an awakening in Belfast and Limerick over the past two weeks‚ the Cheetahs are back on home soil on Saturday when they take on Italian outfit Zebre.
Although the adjustments they made on the road will stand them in good stead‚ they can probably revert to what has worked for them on home soil, forcing the visitors to make the tweaks in Bloemfontein.
“The idea is to play our game. In saying that‚ a team like Zebre is very physical.
“They play direct and we have to counter that. Playing here, however, does allow us to play our own game.
“We don’t underestimate anybody. It’s game by game for us and they will get our full attention‚” said Duncan.
“We’ve done a lot of homework on these guys. They are a pretty good outfit.”
The men from Parma‚ where they are used to moderate temperatures in the early 20s‚ will have to acclimatise quickly in Bloemfontein, where the mercury has climbed into the 30s this week.
Mercifully‚ however‚ the match has been scheduled for a 7.30pm kick-off.
The Italians‚ who finished 12th in last season’s PRO 12‚ lead the Cheetahs on points difference in their section of the competition.