Chee­tahs adapt to new life run­ning two teams

Business Day - - SPORT - Liam Del Carme /TimesLIVE

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.

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