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Cheetahs need something special against Chiefs

Super Rugby

JOHANNESBURG – It just doesn’t look good for the Cheetahs.

The odds are well and truly stacked against them on Saturday as they come up against the Chiefs in a Super Rugby match in Bloemfontein where victory seems a long, long way off.

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Oupa Mohoje has been in fine form for the Cheetahs. Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp, BackpagePixChiefs fullback Damian McKenzie, seen here carving his way through the Stormers defence, looms as the major threat for the Cheetahs. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky, BackpagePixWill the Cheetahs players feel that their coach Franco Smith has left them in the lurch by joining the Springbok management? Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp, BackpagePix

Not only will the visitors be pumped up to take something away from their trip to South Africa after going down against the Stormers last weekend, but the Cheetahs themselves are battling a number of internal battles that makes this outing all the more difficult.

Some of the players may feel coach Franco Smith has left them in the lurch; the mentor having taking up an assistant coaching role with the Springboks, which means he won’t be around for the Currie Cup, and his thinking may well be with the national team already, while the Super Rugby axe is hovering over the team as well.

There is no question the players are worrying about their futures, wondering whether they should stay on in Bloemfontein and fight it out in whatever competition they play in this time next year (that is, of course, if they are chopped from Super Rugby), or look elsewhere for employment – in South Africa or abroad.

On top of all this, which is enough to make anyone demoralised, the team are coming off a bye weekend, which makes them rather vulnerable.

Also, the union recently opted to re-seed the field at the Toyota Stadium and while it looks good, the test will be whether it stands up to the action on it over 80 minutes.

And, to compound matters even more, the Cheetahs are desperate for some form. They have won just twice in six matches and haven’t kicked on like many expected them to after their unbeaten run to the Currie Cup title last season.

But then, as is so often the case, a team will often stand up when least expected and deliver a performance to be proud of, and we’ve seen the Cheetahs do exactly that in the past.

They’re a side one can never write off, even when it looks like they have no hope of winning, and the fans will be hoping that day is tomorrow.

They have nothing to lose really, and no one is giving them a chance, so perhaps they’ll do the improbable and knock over the Chiefs.

After all, a look at the Chiefs team suggests they’re not all that great... perhaps Damian McKenzie, Aaron Cruden, Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick have class about them, but for the rest, they’re nothing special.

And, after all, the Cheetahs have Sergeal Petersen, Francois Venter, Nico Lee, Raymond Rhule, Oupa Mohoje, Paul Schoeman... players who, too, can turn it on.

It’s going to take something special from Smith’s men though, make no mistake.

Teams For Bloemfontein

Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Carl Wegner, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche.

Bench: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Junior Pokomela/Luther Obi, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Fred Zeilinga.

Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Sam McNicol, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Taleni Seu, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Kane Hames.

Bench: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Shaun Stevenson.

Saturday Star

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