- The Cheetahs are preparing to make their meeting with Western Province hellish for the visitors on Saturday.
- The Sharks succumbed to the heat, discomfort and rush defence in Bloemfontein last Sunday.
- WP coach John Dobson said he didn’t want his players to fall into the same lull.
Much like they did to the luckless Sharks last Sunday, the Cheetahs are preparing to make their meeting with Western Province hellish for the visitors on Saturday.
While Bloemfontein is experiencing some thunder showers this week amidst the high temperatures, it’s expected that a dry sunny last afternoon could greet the sea-side Province boys come 16:30 kick-off.
The Sharks lost 37-10 on their visit there last Sunday, much of it because they couldn’t adjust to playing at altitude at possibly the strangest time to play rugby in South Africa – late December.
“I felt like we should not have had the water break,” Cheetahs flank Andisa Ntsila told Sport24 in jest.”
Slyly, Ntsila was revealing the relish Hawies Fourie’s men take from taking on beach boys in their uncomfortable home patch.
Province can expect the same.
“We want them to feel the Bloem heat,” said Ntsila.
“We definitely considered that the Sharks won’t enjoy a late December trip to Bloemfontein.
“We must use what we have to our advantage. We know the heat and they are coming from a nice sea breeze. They must feel it when they get here.
“December is family time for most people but we didn’t have much of a choice because we haven’t played much rugby this year.
“I was just grateful there is rugby going on. There is nothing more exciting than that.”
Province head coach John Dobson, however, did not want his charges to fall for the same trick that tripped the Sharks up.
The Capetonians are second to the Bulls on the Currie Cup log with two league games to go before the playoffs but could drop as far down as fifth if they lose their rag in Bloemfontein.
Dobson wanted his players to keep it cool.
“We were aware that in this competition we are going to go up at altitude at funny times and in difficult conditions,” he said.
“It’s something we have prepared for. Luckily, it seems like the weather could be pretty poor in Bloem – quite a bit of rain and it could be cooler, which might suit us.
“Who knows but we’ve prepped for both.
“We got ourselves in this position. In a fantasy world, you don’t want to go to Bloemfontein needing to win to stay alive.
“But we have to embrace that challenge now that we are in this position. That’s the mindset of the group.”
Dobson added that the precarious nature of their log position was a credit to the toughness of the competition but said they regarded the game to hold massive importance in the race for the semifinals.
The Cheetahs are two points off a top four place following their win over the Sharks, who face Griquas this weekend.
The hosts are as motivated as anyone to crack a semi-final berth.
“We are sitting in this curious position where we could end up anywhere between number one to five,” said Dobson.
“It’s credit to the competition. We are seeing this game as an opportunity to wrap up the semi-final place and then start talking about where it’s going to be next week.
“It’s not a quarter-final, because we are not going to get knocked out but it’s a game of massive importance to us.”
Free State Cheetahs
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rhyno Smith, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Reinhardt Fortuin, 9 Ruben de Haas, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Khuta Mchunu, 2 Wilmar Arnoldi, 1 Boan Venter
Substitutes: 16 Marnus van der Merwe, 17 Erich de Jager, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Victor Sekekete, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 George Cronje, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Tian Meyer
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 David Meihuizen, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain)
Substitutes (from): 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Marcel Theunissen, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Ruhan Nel, 23 Tristan Leyds, 24 Leon Lyons, 25Chad Solomon, 26 Ben-Jason Dixon