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Rugby | Pro14

Rory Duncan © Gallo Images

Cheetahs want Bloem stronghold

The Toyota Cheetahs want their Bloemfontein home ground – so foreign in the newly expanded Pro14 competition – to be a stronghold, and that starts with this weekend’s home opener against Italian side Zebre.

So much so that the sponsors of the side have offered free tickets for the match to those who want to attend in an attempt to try and fill the stadium and create a hometown atmosphere for the Cheetahs as they play their first game in South Africa in the competition.

Coach Rory Duncan, after a firey start to the competition, is an excited man to finally getting down to business on home soil.

“We are. I think the guys are pretty excited to be back home again. It was a tough outing – we faced two good teams, and for us to be back home again and have a home game, the guys are excited, and the idea is obviously to make the Toyota stadium our stronghold. It’s nice to have our first home game coming up soon,” Duncan said.

Duncan has already said that the competition is a lot more physical than Super Rugby, so the Toyota Cheetahs need to alter their approach a bit, but won’t shy away from their expansive rugby approach that has been the hallmark of the team throughout their history.

“When I say physical, it is a lot more direct. I don’t know if physical is necessarily the right word. What you get in Super Rugby is that intensity, the hits are still massive in Super Rugby, and the intensity in the game, it is a lot faster in Super Rugby.

“Here they play a very direct game, so you get a lot of bigger collisions.”

Duncan believes physicality is just one aspect of it, because Super Rugby has the ability to be just as physical. Instead the direct approach is something the Cheetahs need to get used to in the new competition.

“There they play a very direct game, you get a lot of runners coming directly at you off nine, forwards that keep coming around the corner and then they hit you again with some big hard-running outside backs. From a defensive perspective we need to stop that momentum.

“Your setpiece is heavily contested, but it is heavily contested in Super Rugby as well. We faced a lot of mauls, not that we didn’t expect it but we had to stop a lot of mauls. In the second game we actually did well because Munster is a top team. Their setpieces are strong.”

While two opening losses aren’t the way the Cheetahs wanted to start the season, they are still positive. And this enthusiasm needs to be turned into a victory this weekend.

“Nobody is panicking in the camp, in fact the guys are quite positive. We got back on Monday night at 8pm and had a Tuesday session in the afternoon, so the guys are into it. The players have responded to it well in terms of their enthusiasm, I just think we need to be a little bit more clinical in certain areas to get the outcomes we want.”


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