After several poor results, the Cheetahs face another tough task against the Chiefs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
After several poor results, the Cheetahs face another tough task against the defending champions, the Chiefs, in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The hosts are in the midst of a disastrous run which has seen them winning just one out of their six previous matches and they are currently languishing at the bottom of the table.
They recently returned from their Australasian tour where they impressed with their attacking style of play but still lost all four their matches.
Coach Naka Drotske a win is imperative if they want to match last year's achievement of qualifying for the play-offs which is the Bloemfontein-based franchise's best ever showing in the competition.
Drotske believes his side's poor ball-retention has been the main reason for their poor form and hopes to rectify this aspect of their play this weekend.
“We couldn't keep the ball through phases, that was a major factor in the games we lost so far,” he said.
“The second thing is that a lot of 50-50 decisions went against us.
“It is always difficult to win away from home, and if you get three yellow cards and concede 14 to 70 points every time, you have to play catch up rugby.”
The Cheetahs had a bye last weekend but have impressed in patches with their free-flowing style of play. They gave the Blues a real scare in the last match of their tour, two weeks ago, before running out of gas in the game's closing stages and sufferred a 40-30 defeat.
They have several Springboks who can change the course of a game with a moment of brilliance but a player who caught the eye in that clash against the Blues is right wing Cornal Hendricks.
The former Blitzbokke representative scored one of the tries of the season in that game and if he receives the ball in space he could prove a handful for the Chiefs defenders.
Another player in the spotlight is fly-half Johan Goosen who has not had the best of tournaments so far. When on song, Goosen is amongst the best number 10s in the business but such performances have not been forthcoming yet in 2014.
The Chiefs showed why they are the champions when they fought back from a 31-15 defict to claim a deserved 34-all draw with the Bulls in Pretoria last weekend.
The champions' coach Dave Rennie believes his side would have to be sharp with their kicking game and line-outs when they face the Cheetahs.
“Obviously they (the Cheetahs) are different than the Bulls, but most South African sides give the ball a lot of air while also being able to go through the middle,” he explained.
“So we need to be pretty sharp in those areas.”
Rennie also pinpointed the Cheetahs' driving mauls as one of their most potent weapons.
“We have some strategies on how we are going to deal with their driving mauls,” he said.
“Once they get the ball at the back and they have seven guys in front, it is just about impossible to stop them.”
Rennie said the Cheetahs' defence may have let them down this year but may have addressed the problem during their bye.
“They score some great tries, but they've leaked a lot of points and that is maybe their biggest issue,” he said.
“The Cheetahs have come home and had a week off, so they've had ample time to prepare for this game. They'll be pretty hungry and we will definitely be mindful of that.”
Prediction: These sides are two of the tournament's best entertainers so a high-scoring game can be expected. The Chiefs will be brimming with confidence after last weekend's draw and will win by seven points!
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Ryno Benjamin, 11 Hennie Daniller, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jean Cook, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Teboho Mohoje, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Howard Mnisi.
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Tim Nanai-WIlliams, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Tom Marshall, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Michael Fitzgerald, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Liam Squire, 20Tanerau Latimer, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Mils Muliaina.
Date: Saturday, April 5
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 BST, 13:00 GMT)
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Francois de Bruin (South Africa)
TMO: Deon van Blommenstein (South Africa)