Cheetahs wary of Southern Kings threat




The Southern Kings might be at the bottom of the South African Super Rugby Conference but the Cheetahs won’t underestimate them in their Super Rugby derby in the Free State stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Second in the local conference, coach Naka Drotske and his team are currently on 27 points, a difference of 15 between them and the visitors from Port Elizabeth.

The hosts have also won six games so far, while the Kings have been victorious only twice.

Despite being the favourites on their home ground, Drotske said the Cheetahs could not afford to underestimate the Kings.

“This is one of the most important games for us. We need a victory if we are to stay in the running for a place in the knock-out stages,” he said.

“The Kings have been the big surprise of this year’s competition and have shown that they are to be taken seriously.”

Just how serious the Cheetahs are about the challenge against the Kings, was reflected in their preparations this week for their tussle with the visitors.

The Cheetahs put in extra hours on the practice field to make sure they are at their best come Saturday.

“We have gained a lot of confidence the last couple of weeks, mainly because of the good victories that we have obtained,” Drotske said.

“This can, however, also have a negative impact, specially if you are playing against the side at the bottom of the South African conference.

“It is important that the players know that the Kings game is not going to be a easy one.”

The hosts will field an unchanged side for the fourth week in succession.

Their loose trio of Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, and Heinrich Brussow will have to be at their best.

The Kings have decided to bench former Springbok flanker Luke Watson, but he will no doubt make an impact early in the second half.

Another battle which will be closely watched is the one in the scrums.

Bolstered by Springboks Adriaan Strauss and Coenie Oosthuizen — who plays in his 50th Super Rugby game for the Cheetahs — and stalwart Lourens Adriaanse, the Kings’ front row of Kevin Buys, Bandise Maku, and Schalk Ferreira can expect a warm reception in the city of roses.

The Cheetahs have yet to enjoy a break, but will get a much needed bye next week after playing 10 weeks of Super Rugby.

Drotske would love nothing more than to give his side a rest, but for now the focus remains on the threat the Kings pose.

“The bye will definitely be welcome, as the players’ bodies need some much needed rest, but for now the focus is on the Kings,” Drotske said.

“The teams that have managed to beat them, are teams that had to work hard to do so. And they gave them the respect that they deserve. We have to do the same.”

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