Cheetahs not on a bonus-point rush
REACTION: The Free State Cheetahs will look to build on their early season momentum and become more consistent.
Chasing their first Currie Cup title since 2007, the men from Bloemfontein got off to a flying start with back-to-back bonus-point victories - over the Boland Cavaliers (44-16) and Blue Bulls (43-20) - before making a big statement with a 32-25 win over Western Province at Newlands this past weekend.
With the defending champion Golden Lions, who had a bye in Week One, having lost to Griquas this past weekend, it meant the Cheetahs and Sharks have opened a handy gap at the top of the standings in a shortened season.
The Sharks, with three consecutive bonus-point victories, shade the Cheetahs on the standings - 15 points to 14.
Cheetahs coach Franco Smith dismissed the notion that the 'lost' bonus point at Newlands could be an issue.
He also said that while momentum is important, they see every week as a new challenge.
"While momentum does play a role, our challenge is to be consistent every week," Smith told rugby365 in an interview.
"Free State have been inconsistent for a long time. That is why consistency is our main topic at the moment."
He said the fact that the Cheetahs did not get a bonus point in Cape Town this past weekend is also not a major concern.
"It would have been unrealistic to have gone to Newlands and expect a bonus point win," he said, adding: "There are three players in this team who have previously won at Newlands and that was not even in a Free State jersey.
Our main objective was to get a win [at Newlands] and repeat our performance from the previous week," he said of their demolition of the Bulls in Round Two.
"The bonus point [we did not get] is not the end of the world.
"There will be opportunities [in the coming weeks] and if we continue to play well it will not be an issue."
He said there were no serious injuries after the win at Newlands, other than "a few bumps and bruises".
"We have a break [bye] and then we'll have a good idea who will be available," Smith told rugby365, adding that a number of players could return from injury.
Wing Sergeal Petersen, who suffered a knee injury in the opening round encounter with the Boland Cavaliers, is recovering well.
Captain and centre Francois Venter is making good progress from his injury, while Danie Minnie is also on the road to recovery.
"There will be a number of players who will become available," Smith said of their Round Five encounter with the Eastern Province Kings in Bloemfontein on September 3.
By Jan de Koning