Cheetahs’ Victor Sekekete wants to give fans early Christmas gift against Sharks

Captain Victor Sekekete hopes the Cheetahs can continue where they left off against Zebre in Sunday’s Sharks clash. Picture: BackpagePix

Captain Victor Sekekete hopes the Cheetahs can continue where they left off against Zebre in Sunday’s Sharks clash. Picture: BackpagePix

Published Dec 14, 2023


When the Cheetahs host the Sharks in their EPCR Challenge Cup clash on Sunday, it will only be the second match in the competition this season for both teams – but so much will be riding on that 3pm kickoff.

Both teams have considerable ground to make up.

The Cheetahs will be looking to mark their historical homecoming to the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein and make it a remarkable one.

What better scalp to do that with than that of a Sharks side that boasts a handful of World Cup-winning Springboks.

On the other hand, so much talk has been made about the Sharks being laden with Springboks, but the reality is that with this match, they will be looking to stitch up back-to-back victories for the first time this season.

Speaking to the media yesterday, Cheetahs captain Victor Sekekete did not downplay the magnitude of their return to Bloemfontein.

“It is very important for us. Honestly, it is very special, because for the past two seasons, we’ve played all our (Challenge Cup) games away,” said the No 5 lock.

“I think the hard work during the off-season has paid off. This is going to be good for the boys. This is a very nice reward for us to go out there (in front of our home crowd) and showcase what we can do.”

In the past, the Cheetahs have been forced to play their home matches in Parma, Italy and coincidently, that is where they opened their campaign last weekend with a 33-15 win against Zebre.

That is the same Zebre that beat the Sharks 12-10 in the Durbanites’ last match of a horrible European tour, where they lost all four opening United Rugby Championship matches.

But of course, the Sharks were yet to welcome their Springboks back then as they went on to lose their first home game of the season against Connacht a week later, before blowing away the Dragons 69-14 to register their first win of the season.

The confidence that was to be built from that victory was munched away by another Springbok-laden side, the Bulls, at Loftus Versfeld a week later in a 44-10 trouncing.

Since then, the Sharks have seemingly gone into hiding, but the 45-5 drubbing they gave Pau at Kings Park last weekend should be enough to recharge them as they head to Bloemfontein hunting for consecutive wins for the first time this season.

However, it will be tricky as they will have to deal with the almost similar dry and hot weather conditions that may have contributed to their 44-10 demise at the hands of the Bulls in Pretoria.

Cheetahs forwards coach Izak van der Westhuizen joked yesterday that hopefully the Sharks will again find the high altitude tough to deal with on Sunday.

“It is a matter of getting used to the heat. The guys have had a chance of getting the feel of the ball and what the conditions are going to be like,” said Van der Westhuizen.

“Hopefully we can get the same result this week. Very often people put a lot of emphasis on things like altitude and stuff like that, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to who wants it the most.”

The Cheetahs have since embraced the underdogs tag, at least when pitted against a Sharks unit that includes the likes of Ox Nche and Eben Etzebeth in their pack of forwards.

“We are expecting a physical onslaught from the front. They are building confidence from their forward pack, so they are going to come for us in the scrums, and also try and maul us. They are going to try and play a very expansive game, so we’re going to try and shut that down as well,” said Van der Westhuizen.

The Cheetahs may not have Springboks in their pack, but they have a reputation to protect, being the reigning Currie Cup champions.