Outgoing coach Franco Smith hands over his Cheetahs tie to incoming Hawies Fourie. Photo: Cheetahs Rugby on facebook

JOHANNESBURG – Hawies Fourie officially took charge of the Cheetahs on Monday and will be thrown into the deep end on his first overseas assignment in the Guinness Pro14 competition. 

The Cheetahs got their campaign off to a running start winning three matches on the trot at home giving former coach Franco Smith a stunning farewell. 

Sitting pretty at the top of their Pro14 Conference A, the Cheetahs will be looking to build on this positive momentum under the tutelage of Fourie. 

“It is a lot better take the reins of a team that is in a good space and that are playing good rugby especially when you take over in the middle of a competition,” Fourie said.

“When you have a lot of time with preseason and months before the start of competition then you can have your own things in place.”

Fourie spent the last two weeks with the team where he had time to assimilate to the new environment. 

But Fourie is no stranger to the Cheetahs after spending eight years with the franchise as an assistant coach. 

Fourie, who won back-to-back Varsity Cup titles with Maties before his appointment with the Cheetahs, said he had no plan to make wholesale changes shortly. 

“The team is playing well, they have a lot of confidence, and there is a lot of continuity,” Fourie said.

“Franco and I are relatively similar in our thinking about the game so not too much will change. It is about retaining what is good and building on that so it won’t be a difficult changeover.”

Next ‘block’ in the Cheetahs’ campaign consists of three away games against Irish side Connacht and Welsh teams duo Llanelli Scarlets and Cardiff Blues.

The Bloemfontein side has battled playing overseas with only victories over Italian team Zebre and the Dragons of Wales over the last two seasons.

The next three weeks on the road will be Fourie’s first big test as he enters uncharted waters in his coaching career.

“I’ve never coached a team playing in the Northern Hemisphere which is something new, but fortunately a lot of the players have played there before for two or three seasons,” Fourie said.

“It isn’t new for the majority of our players, and my assistant coaches also have experience playing in the Northern Hemisphere.”

Fourie believed the team had the potential to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season for a shot at a maiden Pro14 title. He hoped to coach the Cheetahs to Pro14 glory and add to the team’s Currie Cup success during his tenure.

“We have a chance to get into a quarterfinal, and that is where you want to be because you then have a shot at winning the competition,” Fourie said.

“We are aiming to finish in that top six then give ourselves a chance at securing a home playoff which is why you need to finish among the top sides.”

Turning his attention to this weekend’s Rugby World Cup quarterfinals, Fourie was confident the Springboks would be too strong for inspirational hosts Japan on Sunday. 

“Japan are playing with great intensity, and it is great to watch, and I think many teams can learn a thing or two from them, but I think our forwards will be too strong for them,” Fourie said.

“We have two strong packs of forwards that can take on any team in the world. These type of matches are won by the team who has a tight five that can dominate. It won’t be easy, but I think the Boks will be too good for them.”

Fourie predicted Wales, England and New Zealand would come out on top in their respective playoff matches.

@ockertde

 

The Star

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