Ren­nie’s men aim to have Chee­tahs on run

Sunday Herald - - SPORT - BY LEWIS STU­ART

We are ready for the phys­i­cal chal­lenge. We just take it as it comes, at­tack the belly of the beast

SIX weeks into the new-look Guin­ness PRO14 and at last a Scot­tish side gets to step into the un­known per­ils of the Chee­tahs’ den. Ital­ian, Ir­ish and Welsh teams have al­ready gone there and come away beaten – can Glas­gow War­riors be­come the first north­ern hemi­sphere club to win in Bloem­fontein?

For­tu­nately, they have some inside knowl­edge of what to ex­pect in South Africa. Scot­stoun head coach Dave Ren­nie used to go there reg­u­larly with the Chiefs, his for­mer prov­ince, for Su­per Rugby fix­tures and equally reg­u­larly came away with wins.

On top of that, Glas­gow have a cou­ple of South Africans in the squad who have ex­pe­ri­enced the Veld.

“It is al­ways good head­ing up there – it’s a fast pitch. I bet the boys will be ex­cited to get out there and play some run­ning rugby,” was the ver­dict from one of them, Bran­don Thom­son, who had come off the bench to kick a late penalty and con­ver­sion in Glas­gow’s 37- 21 home win over Benet­ton Tre­viso on Fri­day night.

“Ev­ery­one speaks about the al­ti­tude but the most im­por­tant thing is to play our own game. We are a very fit team and will back our fit­ness even at al­ti­tude. Con­trol the con­trol­lables and fo­cus on what you can take on to the field.

“They are at home in a coun­try that is un­fa­mil­iar to us. They will back them­selves to run, they have a very fast back line – great pace, great feet – and strong for­wards. We will need to be pre­pared. They have a big pack but, as the Glas­gow boys have shown in the last cou­ple of weeks, we are ready for the phys­i­cal chal­lenge. We just take it as it comes, at­tack the belly of the beast.

“I will back our mo­men­tum against theirs, but it is im­por­tant to keep our heads down, to keep graft­ing and work­ing hard. It will not be easy, but the boys are ready.”

Graft, es­pe­cially in de­fence, is prob­a­bly the key. The Chee­tahs will come at Glas­gow with all the fe­roc­ity they can muster, aim­ing not just to use their big, hard pack but also to bring two of the best at­tack­ing wings in South Africa – Ray­mond Rhule and Maka­zole Mapimpi – into the game.

That was cer­tainly the for­mula that over­came Ze­bre in a high-scor­ing clash, be­fore the Chee­tahs also con­quered Le­in­ster and the Ospreys, claim­ing, it should be noted, a scor­ing bonus point in each of those games. Be­fore Mun­ster played yes­ter­day they were sec­ond in the con­fer­ence they share with Glas­gow. Even more im­pres­sively, they have man­aged that while also field­ing a team to com­pete in the Cur­rie Cup – they were last sea­son’s winners – where they are cur­rently sec­ond.

How­ever, Glas­gow go into Fri­day’s clash hav­ing made a 100 per cent win­ning start to the sea­son, with three of their five vic­to­ries com­ing with try bonus points.

The Chee­tahs are un­beaten at home, but be­gan life in the PRO14 with two heavy away de­feats.

Thom­son ad­mits that po­ten­tially head­ing back to South Africa is a strange feel­ing – the Glas­gow squad for the trip had not yet been an­nounced – only a cou­ple of months af­ter he left Cape Town and the Storm­ers for Scot­land.

“I thought I would go and visit af­ter a while, but not this soon. It would be good to get there and play some footie,” he said. “If I am for­tu­nate enough to travel, then my fam­ily will be there, my mother will be there to see me. I am miss­ing the guys back home but lov­ing it over here.”

Judging by the crowds, there is still some­thing of a sales job to be done for the PRO14 in South Africa, but Thom­son is cer­tain the fans will come.

“South Africa, tra­di­tion­ally, is a rug­bylov­ing coun­try,” he said. “Wher­ever there is rugby they will love it. This is some­thing new – new teams, new play­ers – so they are ex­cited to have some of our teams com­ing to Europe and to have a front-row seat to watch the north­ern hemi­sphere play­ing.

“I have nu­mer­ous friends at the Chee­tahs and the Kings. They say they are en­joy­ing it. It is a new ex­pe­ri­ence for most of them; they get to travel and see the north­ern hemi­sphere. It is a dif­fer­ent style of rugby, so they have had to ad­just to that.

“At the end of the day, though, rugby is rugby. There is maybe a small tweak here and there as to how our teams play – struc­tures and that. At the end of the day, though, you know the game plan – stick to it and make sure the boys work hard for each other.”

Glas­gow are be­ing care­ful about this game. Hav­ing rested many of their in­ter­na­tional play­ers on Fri­day, they have ev­ery­one avail­able and can take a strong squad. They are trav­el­ling to­day to make sure they have enough time to ac­cli­ma­tise to the al­ti­tude be­fore the game.

It is a step into the un­known for the play­ers but with a run of form be­hind them in ad­di­tion to hav­ing fit­ness train­ers and coaches who have done all this be­fore and know how to pre­pare them, they have ev­ery rea­son to feel confident they can achieve what the other coun­tries in the PRO14 have failed to man­age – to get a win.

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