Okay, let’s get one thing straight. The Cheetahs and the Stormers are not going to make the play-offs in Super Rugby this year. Not when they have won only three of the 17 matches they have played.
They are bottom of the log, and both are missing several key players through injury.
The Stormers don’t know how to score tries, and the Cheetahs don’t know how to defend. And it doesn’t look like either side will be able to improve in those areas soon.
So, with nothing much but pride to play for this afternoon in Bloemfontein, is it too much to ask that they forget about where they are on the log and how many games they have won and just get back to the rugby?
If they manage to rid themselves of the pressure they have put themselves under, then we may just get a decent game – something that South African rugby fans are craving.
We may even get some silky-smooth handling, some quality offloads and, more importantly, some sensational tries. But for this to happen, for this derby to be an edge-of-the-seat affair, we need the Stormers to bring their attacking skills and not rely on their defence, and the Cheetahs to match their willingness to play attacking rugby with equal desire on defence.
These teams have nothing to lose. They are not going to win the competition, let alone the South African conference, but they have a chance to show what they are made of in the second half of the competition and at least finish with a bang.
A few good performances may even make life a little easier for the Sharks, who are the only South African team showing signs of going all the way this year.
If the Bulls win today against the Force, then they, too, will be in the running for the knockout stages, but they may need a little help from the Cheetahs, Stormers and Lions to get them into the top six.
The Cheetahs looked an improved side against the Sharks last weekend, conceding just one try in losing for the seventh time, and they will hope to build on that performance against the men from the Cape. Heinrich Brüssow’s return to action after a lengthy injury has boosted them significantly and he is sure to play a key role, especially because he will be up against an equally prominent breakdown specialist in Deon Fourie. This should be one of the better match-ups today, even if Fourie is playing hooker for the Stormers.
But apart from Brüssow, Drotské’s team boasts several other dynamic players, such as Adriaan Strauss, Sarel Pretorius, Johan Sadie, Willie le Roux and Raymond Rhule, who is back in the side and deemed to have plenty of X-factor about him.
We know the Cheetahs will play attack-minded rugby. Let us just hope they continue in that vein, but that they add a defensive dimension to their game, too.
As for the Stormers, Coetzee’s side is packed with class, skill and power, and the backs look particularly dangerous. Outside Peter Grant at flyhalf, Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh, Damian De Allende, Jaco Taute and newcomer Devon Williams all have something special about their play, but can they deliver today? Let’s hope so.
In Perth, the Bulls will be hoping to register South Africa’s first win abroad this year after winless tours by the Cheetahs and Stormers.
Victor Matfield’s team – he will captain the side in the absence of the suspended Flip van der Merwe – have lost three in a row. If they have any hopes of making the top six later on, they simply have to beat the Force, who have been this season’s surprise package. - Independent on Saturday