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Cheetahs chasing Aussie whitewash

Tue, 12 Mar 2013 11:13
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We set ourselves the goal of three wins on tour
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The Cheetahs, fresh from their impressive demolition of the Highlanders last week, are aiming for a first-ever Australian whitewash.

Assistant coach Hawies Fourie, speaking to this website ahead of their encounters with the Waratahs and Western Force, said they are determined to achieve an unprecedented three consecutive wins on the road.

The 11 points the Cheetahs collected last year - a 23-24 loss to the Brumbies, followed by a 33-26 win over the Rebels, a 21-28 loss to the Crusaders and a 47-38 win over the Hurricanes - is the most the men from Bloemfontein have ever achieved on an Australasian tour.

They have never won back-to-back matches abroad - the only South African franchise not to achieve this.

Even the now discarded Lions have done the double, two consecutive victories - 2007 (the Force and Reds).

The Stormers, with a three-peat in 2011 (Blues, Brumbies and Rebels on consecutive weekends), lead the way. If you add their first match abroad in 2012 (against the Highlanders) the men from Cape Town can actually boast four consecutive Australasian wins. The Stormers did the double, back-to-back wins, seven times.

And the Sharks can also boast a four-peat - beating the Highlanders and Hurricanes in 2010 and in their next two matches in Australasia defeating the Force and Rebels in 2011. The Sharks also boast seven doubles.

The Bulls have done the double just twice.

But it is their determination to stay in the play-off race, not records, that are driving the Cheetahs ahead of Friday's encounter with the Waratahs in Sydney.

"We have to win them both [against the Waratahs this Friday and the Western Force the next week], to make up for that loss to the Sharks in Bloemfontein in Week Two," Fourie told this website in a telephone interview from the team's training base in Sydney.

"We set ourselves the goal of three wins on tour to make amends for that loss [against the Sharks]," he said, adding: "We got onto the winning track last week, so now we have to be cautious not to get overconfident."

Fourie said the Cheetahs will require a repeat of the high-paced, physical game that saw them dominate the Highlanders if they are to repeat the result of their last visit to Sydney - a  23-3 win in 2011, the Bloemfontein side's first-ever victory in Sydney.

The Cheetahs' only other win in Australia was over the Rebels (33-26) last year, with just two more wins abroad - the Hurricanes (47-38) in 2012 and the Highlanders (36-19) last week.

"We defended very well, but on attack we can still do a lot better than we did," Fourie said of last Saturday's outing in Invercargill.

"That win was critic to our cause."

Another critical aspect of the Cheetahs' performance was the improvement shown by flyhalf Johan Goosen, who - after succeeding with just 50 percent and 25 percent of his kicks at goal in the first two matches - slotted all of his eight kicks against the Highlanders.

It was obvious that Goosen benefitted from a few games and his confidence is certainly coming back.

"Also the fact that he didn't attempt those semi-impossible kicks at goal," Fourie said, when asked about the 20-year-old Springbok flyhalf.

"We spoke about that in the week," the Cheetahs' backline coach said, adding: "We decided [that he should start with] easier kicks, build self-confidence.

"When a flyhalf kicks well, then the rest of his game improves - especially a guy like him [Goosen], where kicking is a vital part of his game.

"When he kicks badly, then he places unnecessary pressure on himself.

"It was a very big game for him in terms of self-confidence," Fourie said, adding that there is no doubt Goosen will soon regain the ability to land 60-metre penalties and drop-goals.

By Jan de Koning

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