Bloemfontein – The Cheetahs have to match the Bulls physically if they want to win their first Super Rugby game in this year's competition.
The Bloemfontein-based side plays host to the visitors in the Free State stadium on Friday evening and coach Naka Drotské was adamant that his charges need to stop the Bulls from getting any momentum if they want to come out on top.
In a surprise upset the Cheetahs lost at home to the Lions last weekend and need a win over the Bulls to gain valuable momentum before they depart for their overseas leg of the competition on Sunday.
Drotské said that could only be achieved if his side produced the goods on the defence.
“We looked at the game against the Sharks, and the Bulls used the driving maul almost every time from their own line outs,” he said.
“It is the same pattern that we picked up last season from them. It is clear that if you can stop them from gaining momentum, either from their big forwards running at you or their driving mauls, you can beat them.”
He said this had been the team's big focus this week.
“Sometimes it is easier said than done, but I am very positive and have confidence in the way we prepared,” Drotské said
“We definitely are a more physical team than last year.”
The Cheetahs had also looked at their ability to convert chances on the attack into points. It was the one area that directly lead to their demise against the Lions.
“We are not happy with our accuracy last week. We created seven try scoring opportunities and we only finished two of those. It is definitely something we worked on this week,” Drotské said.
“We need to finish our chances and we need to show more respect to the ball. We need to keep the ball for more phases, at least six or seven, every time we have a set piece to work from.”
He said there were a lot of chip kicks against the Lions and with the exception of Ligtoring Landman's effort, every chip kick was the right decision.
“It was only our execution that let us down,” Drotské said.
“A player like Willie le Roux's decision making has always been good as well as his execution. For us to go and rein him in after only one match is the wrong decision. The message to the players is that we need to take the ball through more phases.”
The Bulls have to make due without many stalwarts like Springbok fly half Morné Steyn, who like many others, has chosen to play his rugby abroad.
Drotské however did not think that the absence of big names made the visitors a weaker side in any way.
“The Bulls have the luxury of contracting 55 to 65 players, so every player has been part of their structures this year and the year before,” he said.
“They have lost a number of key players and the challenge for them will be to show that they can perform without a guy like Morné Steyn. Both teams will be desperate for a win.
“They've lost against the Sharks and we lost against the Lions. The team who comes second on Friday will have a record of none out of two and that will create a lot of pressure.”
The Bulls will arrive with Springbok lock Flip van der Merwe at the helm after captain Pierre Spies failed to recover from an elbow injury against the Sharks.
However the visitors were still raring to go and coach Frans Ludeke said his outfit was ready for anything the hosts could throw at them.
“The Cheetahs showed against the Lions that they can be very dangerous on the attack. Their defence is also very good,” he said.
“On the night they can take any approach, but we have prepared to face anything they throw our way.” – Sapa