Cheetahs look for blast from past

The Cheetahs have only recorded two full years in Super rugby in the professional era. But perhaps their finest victory was recorded in the same place and against the same opponents that they will face this Friday.

In 1997 the Cheetahs travelled to Invercargill, to the Highlanders fortress, Carisbrook – the “House of Pain”. It was there, and then, that the Cheetahs recorded their only win overseas.

But if this new breed of Cheetah can mirror anything of that performance ten years ago, a victory should be a foregone conclusion.

Despite being blown nearly out of the game by referee Colin Hawke, the Cheetahs scored seven goals in that famous victory, the precise boot of Jannie de Beer operating as smoothly as ever.

Current manager Naka Drotske scored two tries, as well as fellow Free State stalwart Chris Badenhorst.

The Highlanders were unable to score a single try, going down 49 to 18, with all their points being penalties kicked by fly-half Simon Culhane.

Last year the Cheetahs had a miserable year overseas, going winless, and what’s more is that in the past two years the Cheetahs have only managed one win against New Zealand opposition after seven attempts.

But the management duo of Rassie Erasmus (coach) and Naka Drotske (manager) will retain the memories of that famous victory, and they have also instilled a traditional Free State spirit in their charges – a focus upon the collective performance of the team and shared resolve rather than reliance on stars.

The word from the Cheetahs camp is that spirits are high ahead of their crucial clash with a Highlanders side who do not have the aura of yesteryear.

Drotske, from the camp in the neighbouring town of Queenstown, has said that the good news is that loose forward Ryno van der Merwe will be available for selection.

“Ryno will be up for consideration. Rassie has not yet decided who his loose forwards will be.

“I can also say there is a good spirit and the guys are enjoying Queenstown a lot,” the manager told Die Volksblad newspaper.


365 Digital

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