Cheetahs

Erasmus’ plans come together

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It was actor George Peppard, better known as Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith of the A-Team fame, that coined the phrase: “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Bloemfontein’s own ‘A-Team’, the Cheetahs’ also feel their Super 14 plans are coming together.

Veteran utility front row forward Andr’-Henry ‘Ollie’ le Roux, speaking ahead of his team’s first outing on a five-match Australasian tour – against the Highlanders in Invercargill on Friday – said the Cheetahs are “on a good wicket”.

Le Roux, on his 21st trip abroad in a decade of professional rugby, ascribes this to the fact that the Cheetahs managed a convincing 38-20 win over the Brumbies in their last outing, in Bloemfontein a fortnight ago, before having a bye last week.

“That win against the Brumbies gave us the confidence we needed,” he said about a season in which three successive defeats threatened to derail their 2007 campaign.

But the victory over the two-time champion Brumbies saw the Cheetahs move up to eighth place in the standings, just five points (one win) off the play-off pace.

“We are working on a few things, fine-tuning things,” he said about some of the tactics they employed in overpowering the Brumbies.

“If you look at our stats in the games against the Sharks [in which the Cheetahs lost 14-30 the week before] and Brumbies, then everything is the same … all the stats are the same.

“The only difference is that we lost the game against the Sharks and we won against the Brumbies, which means things are starting to come together.

“We are getting confidence in the system and that which we are working on is beginning to come through in the games. We are definitely on a good wicket for our first game abroad,” Le Roux said from the team’s base in Invercargill.

He said the Cheetahs have been working on “most” aspects of their game, but when you play New Zealander opposition there is only aspect to focus on.

“You have to ensure that you go forward more often than they do. We will have to be very physical in the contact. New Zealanders will only respect you if you stuff them up,” Le Roux said.

Le Roux, with over 300 first class games – including over 100 Super Rugby matches and 54 Tests to his credit, is one of the most experienced players in the Super 14 tournament.

But in the opposing side on Friday will be the one player with more Super Rugby experience, veteran All Black hooker Anton Oliver – who has 51 test caps and 121 Super Rugby games to his credit.

Le Roux, at 33, rates the 31-year-old Oliver very highly … for obvious reasons.

“Make no mistake, Anton [Oliver] is a legend. It is the experience that he brings with him. No money can buy experience – as they say, ‘form is temporary, but class is permanent’ and he has plenty of that.

“Just look at what he did last week. When Anton [Oliver] came on with just seven players in the scrum they scrummed the Bulls to pieces.

“We are certainly going to be tested in that department, but his line-out throwing is sometimes suspect so hopefully we can put some pressure on them there.

“I feel our confidence is higher and they are a bit in between. It might be a bit difficult for them to bring the senior players [Oliver and fellow All Black Carl Hayman] back.

“We are gelling nicely and hopefully we can use that as an advantage before they have slotted in properly.”

Le Roux says he still loves touring, even after a decade and 21 trips abroad.

“You must have some fun as well, it can’t just be rugby, rugby and rugby. Otherwise the players will become stale and lose their edge.

“Of course you also have to get on the field and play good rugby.

“However, what really makes it tough here is that the New Zealanders are really good rugby players.

“You are already out of your comfort zone [being away from home] and suddenly you are at sea level [not Bloemfontein’s altitude], the ball doesn’t travel as far and the conditions are different.

“However, we come here [to New Zealand] often so we are getting used to the conditions.

“However, at the end of the day you must not have too much rugby otherwise you can become stale,” he added.

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital

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