Cheetahs search for physical edge

Cheetahs assistant coach Franco Smith believes the heavy loss to the Crusaders on Saturday may have come just at the right time for the side in their Super 14 campaign.

Smith, the former Springbok centre, believes the Bloemfontein side may just have received a crucial wake-up call as to the lack of physical impetus to their game, which was highlighted by a ferocious Crusaders onslaught, particularly at the breakdown.

Speaking to 365 Digital, he said the Cheetahs had been “shaken” on Saturday.

“We haven’t played a New Zealand side for a year now, and one forgets how physical their game can be. We were shaken at the breakdown, and perhaps also underestimated the urgency with which they were always going to play this game – having lost to the Lions the week before.”

But Smith says the Cheetahs are not panicked. In fact, they are still confident about their chances in the competition.

“We are not going to upset the whole apple cart. The systems we have in place are good. There are just facets of our game we need to tweak.

“One of which is our physical presence.

“Physical presence is huge, and we need to up our attitude at the ruck.”

As the backline coach Smith also pointed out that some of the vulnerabilities of the backs were exposed by the resurgent Crusaders outfit.

“It was a reality check for the backs, and we were exposed.

“But what we also saw in our analysis of the game was that we made four or five mistakes at crucial times – mistakes which ultimately cost us the game.

“The Crusaders were dominant, but we could have been in with a shout if it were not for those mistakes.”

The Cheetahs are currently preparing for Friday’s clash with the winless Chiefs, again in Bloemfontein. And Smith believes that once again they will come up against a New Zealand side completely hungry for the win.

“The Chiefs will, again, be very physical. After four losses, they are not going to need any motivation.

“We expect them to arrive, keen to bag the full points against us by scoring four tries. We were probably one of the sides they targeted to bring the points home from on their tour to South Africa, so we are expecting a tough encounter.”

The Cheetahs are likely to make a number of changes to their line-up for the game. But these will not be a forced reaction from the loss, Smith assures, but rather part of a strategic plan to get the best out of their squad for the entire Super 14, especially after the first four bruising encounters.

“Our focus this week will be our physical approach, especially at the rucks. We also gave the Crusaders too many yards on defence, so we will be looking at that.

“We are not far off in terms of our own game, but Saturday did show we definitely have some things that require attention.

365 Digital

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