Cheetahs now ‘know what to expect’ against Clermont

Published Apr 3, 2024


Mike Greenaway

The Cheetahs back themselves to upset Clermont Auvergne in France on Saturday because of the bitter experience they picked up playing Toulon in a similar fixture last year.

The Free Staters take the field at the early time of 1.30pm at the Stade Marcel-Michelin for a last-16 fixture in the Challenge Cup.

A year ago the Cheetahs did not know what to expect when they were away to giants Toulon but they fought valiantly and lost with honour, 36-21. Importantly, they soaked up valuable lessons about playing in France and they have 16 players going to Clermont, who played in the Toulon game.

They are: Tapiwa Mafura, Daniel Kasende, Munier Hartzenberg, Reinhardt Fortuin, Ruan Pienaar, Jeandré Rudolph, Teboho Mohoje, Gideon van der Merwe, Victor Sekekete (captain), Hencus van Wyk, Schalk Ferreira, Marko Janse van Rensburg, Alulutho Tshakweni, Mzwanele Zito, Sibabalo Qoma and Rewan Kruger.

“That experience counts a lot,” said coach Izak van der Westhuizen, who has taken over the reins from Hawies Fourie.

“That ‘big guy’ syndrome (in terms of the opposition) is not there this year. The guys know what to expect and they know the conditions,” the former Cheetahs lock-turned-coach said.

“That experience counts a lot.”

Van der Westhuizen says the experience of Toulon tells them that game management is more important than ever.

“The areas of the field in which you play are important,” he said. “That means tactical kicking will be key.

“In Europe, it is not like here in South Africa where you can run everywhere,” he explained. “You have to use the kicking game to your advantage and figure out how to manipulate the game.”

In other Challenge Cup action, the Lions travel to Benetton. Kick-off is at 6.30pm.