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Cheetahs aiming for a 'home run'

Wed, 03 Apr 2013 20:15
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It starts with a desperate Stormers team
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The Cheetahs need to go on another unprecedented run if they hope to cement their place among the elite in the Super Rugby competition.

On the back of their three-match winning streak in Australasia, the Cheetahs won a record-equalling fourth consecutive game when they smashed the hapless Rebels this past weekend.

Now they need to win their next four matches to ensure they remain play-off contenders and don't drop back into the pack as they have done in past seasons.

The only problems is, the Cheetahs are playing four South African teams and their record in all-SA derbies are abysmal.

The past two seasons they have managed just one win a year against their compatriots, and in 2010 they won just twice.

It starts when the Cheetahs host a desperate Stormers team in Bloemfontein this coming Saturday, followed by away games against the Bulls and Sharks, before they are back home when the Southern Kings visit them next month.

Assistant coach Hawies Fourie, speaking to this website during the build-up to the encounter with the Cape Town-based franchise, said they are determined to improve on the paltry 12.5 percent winning margin they have achieved in SA derbies in the past two years.

"We know that our record against South African teams the last three years is simply not good enough," Fourie said.

"We feel we [now] have the team to turn that around and get more wins against SA teams.

"The next four weeks will be decisive in our drive to finish in the top six - it is four vital games against SA teams that we are playing."

The other big bonus from their impressive Australasian trip is that they are in the running for play-offs, in stark contrast to previous years when they were playing catch-up from early on.

"With the great results on tour we played ourselves into a position to compete for a place in the top six [play-offs], where in the past at this stage of the season we started looking at what to do to finish in the top 10," the Cheetahs assistant told this website.

"It is a great change in the mindset of the team and we have a lot to play for.

"It is the first time in many years that the Cheetahs are in such a strong position at this stage of the season and we are determined to stay in this position."

However, they also know that they will face a very desperate Stormers team this week.

"They have lost three [of their five] matches, but all those defeats were against very good teams," Fourie said, adding: "They do have plenty of games remaining.

"I believe they will still be one of the teams contesting the play-offs.

"However, there is pressure on them, as they have finished top of the South African conference the last two years as well as topping the global standings last year.

"No doubt they would like to repeat that."

By Jan de Koning

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