Cheetahs can’t afford to lose to Lions: Drotske

With six of their first eight matches taking place away from home, the Cheetahs cannot afford another slip-up when they host the Lions in a Super Rugby clash in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

In their first outing at home against the Bulls, the Free State side at one stage enjoyed a 23-8 lead, but allowed the men from Pretoria back into the game and lost 25-23.

Another lapse in concentration this week could result in the hosts suffering the same fate as they did in 2009 when it took them seven matches to record their first win.

After their match against the Lions, the Cheetahs will go in search of their first victory on the road and will face a tough task against the likes of the Waratahs, the Reds, the Blues and the pace setting Highlanders.

“It is important that we take some continuity overseas where we would like to return with some success this year,” said Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske.

Desperation for victory in Drotske’s camp is echoed in the Lions squad. The visitors have also failed to win a match thus far.

Drotske emphasised that his men would have to be far more disciplined than they were in their 21-15 loss against the Stormers last week.

He added that his charges had taken heed of what John Mitchell’s young guns were capable of doing in open space.

“I think the Lions are an exciting team and they will be testing us on different levels this week,” Drotske said.

The Cheetahs are expected to be put though their paces in defence as the Lions have made no secret of their intention to hold on to possession.

Their ability to create space out wide has put a sparkle in the eye of players who can get depressed when they don’t get their hands on the ball.

Lions wing Michael Killian is one of those players and he is of the opinion that their hosts are similar in their approach to the game.

“Looking at the Cheetahs and the way they play the game, they play pretty similar to what we do, so it is going to be a tough challenge but we are up for it,” said the speedster.

And like all members of the Lions squad, Killian is convinced this week will signal the end of a 17-match losing streak.

“The team that’s going to win is the team that brings the biggest belief and motivation to this game, and I believe our structures are in place and we are going to win this one,” he said.

The Lions have made two changes to their side with fullback James Kamana and Rory Kockott set to earn their first starting caps.

The Cheetahs made five switches which includes the introduction of Sias Ebersohn as the team’s Super Rugby flyhalf.

Their most significant change in personnel involves the return of flank Heinrich Brussow who will be up against the Lions’ Derick Minnie at the breakdown.

The question that remains is whether or not the Springbok flank can be as effective under the revised breakdown law applications after nearly a year on the sidelines due to injury.


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