Depending on who you talk to, the Cheetahs have either got a good draw or a bad one. But either way they are headed to New Zealand on Sunday.
Some experts believe it is better to tour later in the Super Rugby competition, once a team is in the swing of things and got some sort of momentum behind them. But others will say it’s best to get the worst part of the competition out of the way as soon as possible, and hopefully pick up a few key wins on the way.
And that’s exactly what the Cheetahs will be hoping for when they head to Australasia on Sunday following their opening Super Rugby game of the new season, against the Sharks, in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
And, one feels, should Naka Drotske’s men start with a win against their old foes from Durban, they may just fancy their chances on tour. They’ll face the defending champions, the Chiefs, first-up and will hope to catch them off guard and that match is followed by a clash against the Highlanders, which could go either way, but they’ll certainly be confident of picking up the points against Aussie outfits, the Waratahs and the Western Force, before returning home.
But the Cheetahs’ confidence could be dented even before they climb on the plane to Australia and New Zealand if they come unstuck against last year’s runners-up.
Drotske, who names his team tomorrow and is hoping to include young No10 Johan Goosen at flyhalf despite his not featuring in any warm-up matches, will want his side to shake off the early season wobbles and produce a good performance. The Cheetahs lost to the Lions and Bulls in their pre-season friendlies, with the team’s defence and line-out problems standing out as major areas of concern.
But writing the Cheetahs off is never a good thing and they’re sure to give as good as they get from the Sharks. Boosting the Bloemfontein side’s chances of a first-up win is the fact the men from Durban will be without the likes of Bismarck du Plessis, Willem Alberts and Keegan Daniel, three key players in the forwards.
Besides Goosen, who has to pass a fitness test to be included for Saturday’s game, prop Coenie Oosthuizen will also have to show he’s over his injury problems before being named to take on the Sharks.
In the only bit of good news in Bloemfontein, now that Juan Smith has had to call it a day, is the fact that Heinrich Brüssow is close to returning from injury and could be ready to take on the Chiefs next weekend. - The Star