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Rugby

Cheetahs keep one eye on the play-offs

10 December 2017 - 00:00 By KHANYISO TSHWAKU

The Pro14 fortunes of the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings are accurately reflected by their log positions.
Rory Duncan's side are sitting pretty in Conference A in third place with six wins from 10 matches and Deon Davids' charges have yet to win in Conference B.
It speaks volume for the preparation Duncan's side had as compared to the Kings, who for the umpteenth time had to assemble a squad a month before the tournament began.
There's still some way to go before the play-off contenders aside from the Glasgow Warriors, Scarlets and Leinster sort themselves out but Duncan said they have used a baby-steps approach to the tournament.
The fact they don't have to deal with the time-zone issues that were part of the Super Rugby package has made their lives easier.
"It will be nice to make the play-offs but we had an approach at the beginning of the campaign that's seen us take one game at a time. We know we have to try to win each game that we take part in," Duncan said.
"We do whatever we can and prep as hard as we can to get that win. We don't always get the win but I wouldn't want to be an idiot and say we don't want to be in the play-offs.
"When you travel to New Zealand and Australia, at least half of the players battle to sleep in the first three to four nights of the trip. There are methods used to get the players into better shape and adapt but there's always an adjustment period.
"When you're flying to the UK or Europe, it's an 11-hour flight and your clock is not thrown completely. You can actually stretch out in the late afternoon and it's an important session either way. You don't have to worry about jet-lag."It would be easy to feel sorry for the Kings but they have shown marked improvement with each match.
While there's a possibility of ending this campaign winless, Davids has mastered the art of using a difficult first season as a platform for a sparkling second campaign.
The Kings were better than the Cheetahs in Super Rugby but the former again didn't have the benefit of a pre-season.
Their improvement has been seen in two of their last three home defeats where they lost by four points to Scarlets and seven points to Ulster respectively.It's a morsel of comfort Davids hopes to use as a form of momentum when they resume their campaign against Edinburgh on January 5.
"The improvement shows you there's a lot of talent in this team and there's a few players who have put up their hands regardless of their inexperience," Davids said.
"It shows the kind of talent we can produce in this country and the one that comes from the Eastern Cape region. It's just a matter of having a proper pre-season and time to prepare the players better. That'll build confidence and give us a better start. Should we have a proper pre-season, you'll see how different the players will be.
"We'll have to work very hard for our first win but the most important thing is the complete break we need after the long rugby year. We're going to be challenged by the extreme weather conditions in Scotland but we want to convert the first-round positives into a good result," he added...

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