Cheetahs no longer a soft-touch

Thu, 14 Mar 2013 13:22
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The Cheetahs are busy adding a steely defensive resolve to their attacking flair, which could make them genuine contenders.

The Cheetahs are busy adding a steely defensive resolve to their attacking flair, which could make them genuine contenders.

The Bloemfontein franchise's backline coach Hawies Fourie believes defence could again be the key when they take on the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday.

While they will never abandon their expansive game plan, it was a much-improved defensive effort that saw them upstage the Highlanders (36-19) in Invercargill last week.

And it would require a similar impenetrable wall against the Tahs this week.

"The important thing is to ensure that that which we did well last week, must again be of the highest standards," Fourie told this website ahead of his team's trip to the Allianz Stadium.

"Our defence was outstanding against the Highlanders and we have worked hard on that in the off-season," Fourie said, adding: "If we can defend like that, we know we can beat any team.

"We know our attack is good enough, we can score tries to win game.

"However, in the past we simply conceded too many soft tries and as a result lost games we should have won."

The defensive efforts between their 3-45 loss to the Chiefs in Week Three and the 36-19 win over the Highlanders last week bear testimony to that statement.

Against the Chiefs the Cheetahs managed just 97 tackles, with their tackle completion rate dipping under 70 percent.

However, against the Highlanders there was a marked improvement, as they made an astonishing 220 tackle and their tackle completion rate was closer to 90 percent - with a few slipped tackles late in the second half when the game was virtually beyond the Kiwi franchise.

The other key aspect, according to Fourie, is to put lots of pressure on the Waratahs with a good kicking game and then get good defensive lines when they have the ball.

Needless to say the Cheetahs are happy with their improved defensive effort, given that they made 220 tackles against the 68 of the Highlanders.

"We are very happy about our defence against a team that maintains the ball so well and have such dangerous outside backs," he told this website in an interview from the team's base in Sydney.

"We would like to, on attack, retain the ball longer - especially inside the opposition 22 we need to be more patient and take the ball through more phases to put more pressure on their defence.

"Our kicking game, especially against the Waratahs, will be important.

"The Brumbies put them under huge pressure with good kicking and good [defensive] lines after the kicks - that is something we would like to replicate."

The Cheetahs have also worked hard to ensure their set pieces are up to Super Rugby standards.

"Our line-outs have recovered very well," the Cheetahs mentor said, adding: "In the first game against the Sharks we lost a lot of balls. Since then we have won all our own ball - we are obviously happy with that [recovery].

"Our scrums, against the Chiefs was good in the first half and bad in the second half. Against the Highlanders it [our scrum] was very good in both halves and on their ball we put good pressure on the tighthead."

By Jan de Koning

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