Cape Town — While the Free State Cheetahs have built a formidable reputation for their maul execution and defence, Jake White believes that they didn’t always do so legally at Loftus Versfeld last weekend.
The two sides will lock horns in Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final in Bloemfontein (3pm kickoff), with the Free Staters coming off a 31-27 victory over the Pretoria side a week ago.
Despite being reduced to 14 men in the first half after No 8 Elrigh Louw was given a red card for a dangerous ruck clean-out — which has subsequently been changed to a yellow card by a SA Rugby disciplinary committee — the Bulls had one last chance to grab an unlikely victory in the closing seconds.
They had managed to work their way back into the Cheetahs 22 and launched a lineout drive on the five-metre line, only to be stopped in their tracks by the visitors’ defence, which led to the maul being collapsed – and referee AJ Jacobs blew his final whistle for the end of the game.
Cwengile Jadezweni has been appointed to take charge of the semi-final at the Free State Stadium, and White hopes that the Bulls will get a fairer shake from the referee’s whistle this time around.
Aimee Barrett-Theron and Dylan November will be the assistant referees, with Egon Seconds the TMO.
The Bulls have recalled regular first-choice hooker Johan Grobbelaar, who was not part of the match-23 last weekend, and the ace No 2 normally controls the ball well at the back of the maul and is able to score tries with his agility.
“That’s one thing about them: they maul incredibly well, and they stop mauls. Sometimes I felt that they got away with a couple of things last week by stopping mauls with hands on the ground, coming in from the side…” White said on Friday.
“But that’s the nice thing – we play them again a week later, and we’ve had an opportunity to look at what worked and what didn’t work.
“And as I said, we played with 14 men (last week), so I’m fully confident that if we just stick to what we do and we’ve got 15 guys on the field, there should be no reason why we can’t be good enough to win the game.
“They are a good team. They maul very well and kick well, and they’re not top of the log for nothing – they’re significantly ahead of all the other teams in terms of points for the season.
“But it’s a knockout game, and it doesn’t matter what happened in the past. It’s all about making sure we get it right on Saturday.”
Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie stated that his team will have to be wary of getting on the wrong side of Jadezweni’s whistle.
“The biggest thing was the number of penalties we conceded (at Loftus Versfeld). We must be sharp and well-disciplined this week. There will always be penalties and there will always be mistakes, but how we react to those will determine the outcome of the game,” the former Boland flyhalf told the Cheetahs website.
“Last weekend, we conceded penalties and had to defend our tryline with our lives, which we did. That gave us a lot of confidence. I’m pretty sure the Bulls will devise plans to try and break our defence. This will be a new game, and we start from scratch.
“I feel if we have a full Toyota Stadium and with the support behind us, we will not have a slow start. The way we trained this week, we want to do things a bit faster and be switched on from the start.”