Cheetahs set sights on winning the Currie Cup
Their campaign may kick off this weekend in Super Rugby Unlocked (SRU) but it is ultimately winning the Currie Cup that the Cheetahs want to salvage from this season of tumult.
The team who were ejected from Pro14 rugby last week to make way for the country's more established franchises need to hit the deck running on Saturday when they host the Pumas in the first round of SRU. It is important that they start well as log points accumulated from SRU will be carried over to the Currie Cup.
“We set ourselves that goal‚” said Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie about winning the Currie Cup.
“The Currie Cup starts this week. It is important do well. The Currie Cup is part of our DNA. Our supporters really value the Currie Cup‚” he stressed.
Fourie has assembled a team of which some have a spring in their step following involvement in last weekend's Springbok Showdown at Newlands. Some‚ as in the case of flanker Junior Pokomela‚ returned barely recognisable.
“Junior came back‚ almost as a different person‚” observed Fourie. “He made lots of contributions to our team talks. I would like our players to get exposure at that level.
“That's why I am a coach‚ to help take a player's career forward. In the past I thought it was bad when there weren't a lot of Cheetahs players in the Springbok squad. We had six guys there and Oupa [Mohoje] couldn't play but the other five acquitted themselves really well.”
Wing Malcolm Jaer came back from Cape Town with a knock but Fourie has included him in the squad. “He trained on Tuesday. He had no pain so we are confident he will be ready.”
Apart from the tyros that did duty at Newlands the team also boasts the experienced hands of captain Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn. They‚ however‚ bring vastly different characters to the team environment.
“Obviously I've played quite a bit with Frans‚” said Pienaar. “It is great to have him here. I think the young guys enjoy having him around and although he's one of the older guys like me‚ he still has a young heart. Sometimes he behaves like an 18-year-old.
“The guys connect well with him. He brings a lot of experience and knowledge. He's been great in meetings and has been quite vocal sharing his views. It is great having someone of his calibre in the squad.”
Steyn has been selected at inside centre and his burly presence will be much needed against a Pumas team that more often than not is direct and confrontational.
“The Pumas are a difficult team‚” reminded Pienaar. “Last year when we played them we won by like three or four points in Nelspruit. They're a big team that is going to be physical. We expect nothing less.”
With the Pumas yet to run out in official competition this year‚ Fourie contends their opponents will be fitted with the unknown tag.
“We looked at the last three games they played in the Currie Cup last year and we got some video material of their warm-up games. Their match against the Lions last week is probably the better indication of where they're at. When they had their best players on the field they led the Lions at Ellis Park and that says a lot‚” warned Fourie.
The Cheetahs team to play the Pumas is - Clayton Blommetjies; Malcolm Jaer‚ Benhard Janse van Rensburg‚ Frans Steyn‚ Rosko Specman; Tian Schoeman‚ Ruan Pienaar (captain); Jasper Wiese‚ Junior Pokomela‚ Andisa Ntsila; Walt Steenkamp‚ Carl Wegner; Luan de Bruin‚ Reinach Venter‚ Charles Marais. Substitutes: Louis van der Westhuizen‚ Boan Venter‚ Erich de Jager‚ JP du Preez‚ Chris Massyn‚ Aidon Davis‚ Tian Meyer‚ William Small-Smith.