This time, though, I think it’s their innovative lineout plays that should have everyone talking about the Free State team.
With only two wins in five matches, things haven’t been going too well for Franco Smith’s men. And with a Round Six meeting with the Stormers looming, it will be interesting to see what the unpredictable Cheetahs dish up at Newlands on Saturday, especially in terms of the lineouts.
But what could be even more interesting will be to see how the Stormers, who were sketchy at a few set-pieces against the Sunwolves at the weekend - losing three of their own lineouts - will combat the Cheetahs’ tactics.
Against the Bulls, the Cheetahs formed a nine-man lineout just short of the Bulls’ try line, and what made it even more different was the fact that the Cheetahs had three backs in their lineout, with wing Rayno Benjamin acting as the jumper taking the hooker’s throw, while inside centre Clinton Swart acted as a lifter.
Scrumhalf Tian Meyer stood at the tail of the lineout, forcing the Bulls defenders to spread out and cover him, while tighthead prop Johan Coetzee stood in the scrumhalf position.
Lock Justin Basson stood close to the jumper Benjamin, like a lifter, and Swart and Ox Nche, who were the actual lifters, brought Benjamin down before the wing transferred the ball to Basson, who moved out and took the ball up around the set-piece.
Basson was driven forward by Oupa Mohoje and Coetzee, while the rest of the Cheetahs forwards all packed up behind Basson as he powered through to score.
The Cheetahs of course caught the Bulls off guard with their backs acting quickly in the lineout and their forwards free to challenge the opposition. Against the Sharks this past weekend, the Cheetahs weren’t as inventive, but they still managed a few effective lineout manoeuvres.
In the first lineout of the match, Mohoje jumped for the ball, before the Cheetahs formed a maul and No 6 Paul Schoeman carried the ball around the blindside. He then sent the ball to Raymond Rhule, who moved in behind Schoeman and paced down touch before being taken down.
Like I said, there was nothing very creative about that lineout, but it was the blistering speed at which it was done that made it effective and allowed the Cheetahs to gain some good ground.
In the second half, lock Francois Uys quickly moved out of the lineout (he acted as a lifter behind the first jumper) and Mohoje moved forward into Uys’ position to lift the No 1 jumper.
Uys then ran to the front of the lineout and caught the low throw from hooker Torsten van Jaarsveldt, popped it back to Van Jaarsveldt before being taken down.
Van Jaarsveldt sent the ball to Schoeman on his inside to cut through on the openside and make a few good metres.
Those are only a few examples of the Cheetahs’ lineout tricks, so there’s no telling what they can bring to Newlands on Saturday.
One thing is for sure: Expect the unpredictable.
That is one of the main reasons the band of orange men from Bloemfontein are almost every South African fan’s favourite “second team”. So when the ball goes into touch at Newlands on Saturday, the Stormers had better be wide awake.