Cheetahs learning‚ says coach Rory Duncan as Irish giants come to town
The rigours of playing in the Pro14 got the Cheetahs thinking.
Whatever pre-conceived notions they had of playing in Europe have been challenged in a fortnight following their introduction to the competition in their defeats to Ulster and Munster.
“It is a mindset change that we need to make‚” coach Rory Duncan conceded.
Duncan probably didn't need to be told that his team‚ which usually revels in the wide 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.
“It's a quality competition. When you look at the line-ups you realise that. The games are quite physical. They play relatively direct.”
Duncan asserted that the physicality his team experienced in the Pro14 was greater than what they encountered in Super Rugby‚ 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. Pro14 is not far off though.”
Much had been made of the Cheetahs' playing resources being spread thin across the Pro14 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.
Human 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.
“We are back home and you get the opportunity to work with both teams. You do miss them 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 last two weeks‚ the Cheetahs are back on home soil on Saturday when they take on Italian outfit Zebre.
Although those lessons and 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 Bloemfontein to make the tweaking.
“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‚” said Duncan.
“It's another game of Pro rugby.
"We don't underestimate anybody.
"It's game by game for us and they will get our full attention.
"We've done a lot of home work on these guys.
"I wouldn't underestimate them‚ 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 Pro12‚ currently lead the Cheetahs on points difference in their section of the competition.