The Cats face a daunting first couple of weeks in next season's Super 12, but their new coach Frans Ludeke was unfazed when the draw was announced on Thursday.

Ludeke has a habit of putting a positive spin on the most abject adversity and on Thursday he again dug below the rubble to salvage something positive.

His team will play the Brumbies and the Highlanders away in their second and third matches respectively and therein lies the potential for an uphill struggle for the remainder of their campaign.

"I am not going to complain about the draw," Ludeke said. "All we have to do is to plan properly and make the best of what we've got. It is tough having to play the Brumbies and the Highlanders so early, but that's the draw. That's the deck of cards we've been handed.

"We would like to take the negative aspects out of the way we approach the season. If I were to make negative comments about the draw then the players would already start thinking that we were up against it," Ludeke said.

However, his team start their campaign away to the Northern Bulls before embarking on the international leg of their commitments. Amazingly, they won't play in front of an Ellis Park crowd before April 20, but they would have played their obligatory two matches in Bloemfontein by then.

They round off their league commitments at home to the Stormers before travelling to Durban to meet the Sharks.

The Cats will play six away matches in next season's competition.

Ludeke put on a brave face when it came to the calibre of the opposition in the first few weeks, but he conceded that their travel arrangements were far from ideal. After playing the Brumbies, the Cats, given the location and order of their next three matches, have to fly over the Tasman Sea four times.

They play the Brumbies, the Highlanders, the Waratahs and the Hurricanes on consecutive weekends which means a total of four trans-Tasman flights.

"We have to see how we are going to get around that. Because of the relative proximity of the venues we may decide to base ourselves in Sydney and then travel to each venue. We are looking at the permutations," Ludeke assured.

Either way, they still have to criss-cross the Tasman on four occasions, but the familiarity of the same hotel over that period may help quell the travel bogey.

"The South African teams are generally disadvantaged by long distance travel because of the amount of time they are away from home. By comparison, the New Zealand and Australian teams get to spend a lot more time at home," Ludeke said.

He did not want to speculate about matches the Cats may highlight on their priority list on their travels. The Stormers used the ploy with stunning success two years ago and it kick started their march to the semifinals.

"They (the Stormers) had a few opportunities to check out the opposition before travelling. We don't. There are many new players and a couple of new coaches, so it is difficult to say what to expect."

Cat's fixtures 2002:

  • February

    Saturday 23: v Bulls, Pretoria at 5.05pm

  • March

    Saturday 2: v Brumbies, Canberra at 10.05am

    Friday 8: v Highlanders, Dunedin at 8.35am

    Saturday 16: v Waratahs, Sydney at 10.35am

    Friday 22: v Hurricanes, Wellington at 9.35am

  • April

    Saturday 6: v Chiefs, Bloemfontein at 5.05am

    Friday 12: v Blues, Bloemfontein at 5.05pm

    Saturday 20: v Reds, Joburg at 3pm

    Friday 27: v Crusaders, Joburg at 7.10pm

  • May

    Saturday 4: v Stormers, Joburg at 2pm

    Saturday 11: v Sharks, Durban at 5.05pm