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Cheetahs looking to be second best

Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:51
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The Cheetahs may effectively be out of the Super Rugby play-off race, but they still have a big 'prize' in their sights.

The Cheetahs may effectively be out of the Super Rugby play-off race, but they still have a big 'prize' in their sights.

While a top-six tournament finish appears beyond their grasp, finishing second in the South African conference remains a very realistic goal for the team from Bloemfontein.

The Sharks are run-away leaders on the SA standings with 27 points after seven matches - followed by the Bulls (18 points from eight matches), the Lions (16, eight), Cheetahs (nine, eight) and Stormers (six, seven).

Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie, speaking to this website ahead of their Round 10 encounter with the Sharks in Durban, said they have amended their goals for the season after last week's 31-52 loss to the Crusaders left them hovering in second-last place on the standings.

"We spoke about our goals," Fourie said, adding: "We feel we still have a realistic chance to finish second in the South African conference."

Of their eight remaining games, six are against South African teams - Sharks (in Durban), Stormers (Bloemfontein) and Bulls (Pretoria), before two matches against overseas visitors (the Western Force and Brumbies both in Bloemfontein), followed by another three matches against SA opposition, the Stormers (Cape Town), Sharks (Bloemfontein) and Lions (Johannesburg).

"Our goal now is to finish second on the SA conference," he said, adding that they realise they need to improve drastically in certain aspects of their game.

"We are simply making far too many mistakes.

"The Crusaders [last week] scored four of their tries after our errors, from turnovers at the breakdown or in contact," Fourie said of their 31-52 loss in Bloemfontein - after they held a 31-26 lead going into the final quarter.

"In another instance the players we just not switched on at a free kick and the quick tap resulted in a try.

"Those are mostly small things with which we put ourselves under pressure - we are working hard on eradicating those errors."

The Cheetahs backline coach said they feel their defence has been improving in recent weeks, despite leaking 12 tries in their last two matches - four tries in the last quarter against the Chiefs and four in the last 20 minutes against the Crusaders as well.

"Critics will point to the scoreboard, but many of those tries have nothing to do with our defence, but rather comes from turnovers on attack and the breakdown when we don't have time to regroup on defence," the Cheetahs' assistant coach said.

"While we are continuing to work on our defence, it is on attack where we need to start looking after our possession much better and not concede as many turnovers."

By Jan de Koning

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