Cheetahs have much to smile about

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Juan_Smith Gallo Images Juan Smith made his return from injury against the Stormers nearly two years after rupturing his Achilles tendon.

Bloemfontein – The Cheetahs have gained some valuable momentum with their 27-26 victory in their warm-up match against the Stormers on Saturday, while the return of some injured players like Springbok flanker Juan Smith and Frans Viljoen has left captain and Springbok hooker Adriaan Strauss smiling.

Smith made his return in the Free State stadium at the very ground he ruptured his Achilles tendon against the Bulls two years ago and although he only played for half an hour, he carried the ball up nicely and even captained the side for a while when Strauss was replaced. That, and the fact that the Cheetahs snatched the victory from the Stormers after the hooter sounded, left Strauss a happy man.

“The players showed some real character. We were under pressure after losing to the Lions last weekend, but we came back and beat the Stormers. This means a lot for our preparation going into our first official game against the Sharks. It was good to see the likes of Juan and Frans showing they're still hungry to play,” Strauss said.

Although the warm up game counts for nothing, the Cheetahs got the chance to identify some problem areas before hosting the Sharks on 23 February.

“We didn't have a good first half. We just couldn't stop the rolling maul when the Stormers utilized it. And we played too much in our own half. We made mistakes and they caught us there. Luckily it's a warm up game and we now get the opportunity to rectify these mistakes. We did much better in the second stanza and for that I am very proud of the boys,” Strauss added.

The Stormers will also take much from the game, with young fly half Kurt Coleman and new signings like full back Jaco Taute (formerly Lions) producing stellar performances.

The Capetonians next take on the Bulls in their second warm up and captain and eighth man Duanne Vermeulen admitted a few problem areas needed to be rectified.

“This was our first game of the season and a tough one against the Cheetahs. We were in control for a good period of time, but we made some silly mistakes and the Cheetahs capitalised on them. They played very well and it is clear that we still have much work to do before we take on the Bulls,” Vermeulen said.

The new law at the scrums also came into play, with both the Stormers and Cheetahs struggling to compose themselves before the hit.

“There are a lot of new things in the scrums, but we as players must adapt to those situations. The referees do their bit and so must we,” Vermeulen added. – Sapa


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