Cheetahs can't get over mental block
SUPER RUGBY REACTION: The Cheetahs' struggles with the mental demands of the imposing reduction in Super Rugby teams continues to play a massive role in their inability to finish off games.
According to coach Franco Smith, the Cheetahs have held a 74th minute lead in six of their eight matches but the weight of expectation that has been placed on their shoulders seems to be taking its toll.
"We are doing great things right but in the vital period of the game, we look at the scoreboard, we take into consideration all the support we have and unfortunately if you speak about it all the time, subconsciously it becomes a threat.
"Unfortunately, we are playing not to lose instead of continuing to look to win. At this level, it is tough to deal with. The way we start, the way we play and the way we physically put ourselves out there, shows there is a lot of belief and a lot of good players developing.
"We are staring into the barrel. We had a four-year plan, all the right things are happening and now the mental aspect is hindering us a little bit. We are trying to deal with it to put it one side but unfortunately, we keep making panic errors
"I think we made two or three vital errors that we had to handle differently. We have now been in six matches where we were in the lead in the 74th minute. I tip my hat to the players though and I think they deserve more for their efforts, so it is disappointing," Smith said.
Things will not get any easier for the Cheetahs as they now head home to face a tough task of hosting the Crusaders.
"We are going to play to where we are strong. It won't be difficult to get the guys up for the game but it is important to bounce back with the right attitude. It's going to be important to recover well, plan properly and we are excited to prepare for the next game.
"These guys deserve a win, they have come a long way and have grown as players. We have to grab the opportunity [of playing against New Zealand teams] by the horns," he added.
Cheetahs captain Francois Venter remains confident that his side may just pull off an upset if their attitude is correct.
"We need to go out with the right attitude and focus on our strengths. A New Zealand side is a quality side but if we remain focused, keep the ball and put them under pressure like we did against the Chiefs, then we can maybe cause an upset.
"They are coming to Bloemfontein maybe thinking it is going to be easy and we are going to go all out and are excited to play against the best," he said.