Cheetahs

Cheetahs to draw on their inner strength

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The Cheetahs face what team manager Naka Drotsk’ describes as their “toughest test” on tour, when they meet the Blues in Auckland on Saturday, but flank Lucas ‘Kabamba’ Floors felt they can draw on their “inner strength” to pull them through this big test.

The Cheetahs started their five-match Australasian tour with a 17-21 defeat at the hands of the Highlanders last week and now face the table-topping Blues … a tall order in anybody’s books.

But Floors felt the fact that they are on tour have had two stints in the tranquil alpine holiday resort of Queenstown will help them draw closer and become a unit that will be able to stand up to the challenges they are facing on this trip.

In fact it is the two stints in Queenstown, a place Floors said has a similar peaceful atmosphere to their home town of Bloemfontein, that the flank felt will ensure they are up for the challenge this week.

They stayed in Queenstown for five days before taking on the Highlanders and returned there for another five-day stint after the match to prepare for the encounter with the Blues.

Not even the defeat against the Highlanders, he said, had quelled their spirit.

“Yes, we did lose the first game, but the players are all still positive,” Floors told this website.

“After a loss, especially on tour when you don’t have your home supporters, it is vital that within the team you lift each other, give each other positive energy. If you’re on tour you must remain a unit and create a good vibe within.”

But it is the Queenstown factor he felt will stand them in good stead.

“At these smaller centres you have more time for each other, you are more together as a team and do things together.

“There aren’t that many distractions that you have in the big cities where the guys go off one their own. These smaller centres help to create unity within the team and gel the team together,” he added.

But obviously good team spirit alone won’t win the match against the Blues on Saturday.

It will take a special effort from the Cheetahs Floors acknowledged the fact that the tourists will have to take a huge step up.

“The Blues are one of those teams that will take you on out wide if it is on, but they also try to overpower you at the rucks and mauls.

“That will be our biggest challenge … at the ruck and mauls. We must ensure they don’t get turnovers to counter with out wide. They like to use the width of the field, so we’ll have to dominate at the rucks and mauls. We will also have to ensure we retain our own possession.”

With the Cheetahs beset by injuries – they are without key players like Os du Randt, CJ van der Linde, Juan Smith, Ryno van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss (although he is on the bench he will only play in an emergency) and Ronnie Cooke – it is up to the youngsters in the team to make the step up.

“A lot depends on the quality of the ball we get and the type of momentum we can build with the ball. It is very important that we build momentum with the ball in hand.

“If you’ve got the ball and keep moving forward things become easier, but as soon as they start hitting you back in the tackles you struggle to get that momentum going.

“We worked hard this week to get momentum with the ball in hand,” he added.

But a good start is also vital to get the youngsters into the game.

Last week the Cheetahs went down 11-0 and had a player sin-binned inside the first 10 minutes. It left them with a lot of ground to make up and playing catch-up rugby is always difficult.

“A good start, especially with the youngsters in the team, will be vital. It will creative a positive vibe and it is important to get that momentum and keep it.

“However, if we have to play catch-up rugby, with the young guys in the team, it could be a long day at the office.

“We have to concentrate on our set pieces and to keep going forward with the ball. If we keep going forward the youngsters will be able to slot in easier,” Floors added.

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital

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