Cheetahs

Joubert and the Cheetahs’ demise

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What started so promisingly has ended so disappointingly. The Cheetahs who smashed the Stormers, the Waratahs and the Brumbies now find themselves in a position where opposition teams consider an outing against them as free log points.

They now face local rivals the Lions on Saturday in Johannesburg, in a match that will demonstrate whether they are able to salvage some pride out of 2007.

Former Bok centre and a 2007 new Cheetahs recruit, Marius Joubert, has put down the decline of his side’s campaign to a massive and devastating “dip in confidence”.

Most who would speculate on the career of Marius Joubert would agree that a debilitating lack of confidence is nothing new to a player whose potential has seemingly erred in recent years, after being one of five nominees for the IRB’s (International Rugby Board) International Player of the Year Award in 2004.

But the dawn of the season, playing for a new side, in a vastly different setting, had seemingly injected the player with fresh confidence and vitality.

This was mirrored by the performances of those around him.

The highly-touted Stormers of 2007 were tossed aside in the season-opener, and some solid results at home saw the side entering the top half of the log as they prepared to tour Australasia.
It was to be a tour that all concerned would rather forget.

Joubert traced the descent.”Our aim going into the tour was to gain 14 log points. Obviously we are very disappointed after falling well short of that.

“We came really close against the Highlanders, and it felt like we should have won that match. After that we were just outplayed by the Blues, but we thought that we had defended well, and we were still somewhat proud of our performance.

“But then against the Hurricanes, we let slip three easy tries, and after that our confidence just dipped.

“We had left New Zealand shattered, and it just went completely wrong against the Reds and then the Force.”

A lack of depth has always been the envisaged problem of the Cheetahs franchise, and Joubert pointed out the impact that key injuries had caused.

“We did lose a lot of key guys before the tour. That’s not always an excuse, but to go over there with so many youngsters was tough.

“Losing guys like Barend Pieterse and Hendro Scholtz was a blow to us.

“It is only our second year as a franchise and on paper things looked good. But then front-rankers like CJ van der Linde, Os du Randt and Adriaan Strauss get injured and your team has taken a huge knock.”

But the former Stormer has not regretted his move to Bloemfontein.

“I have no regrets, I enjoy the way we play here.

“It has been tough not always starting but I agree with Rassie’s [Rassie Erasmus rotational system.”

But Joubert says his game against the Force was one he would rather put behind him.

“I felt that my first couple of performances while we were still playing at home were good, and I was happy with my early form.

“I did well with my opportunities on the first couple of games on tour, and thought I had a good game against the Hurricanes and the Reds, but then the Force was definitely my worst game. I didn’t handle the pressure well.”

Joubert says that, despite the results, he has enjoyed playing under coach Rassie Erasmus. Erasmus is leaving the franchise after Saturday’s match to take up a post with the national team.

“We will definitely miss him,” says Joubert. “He has put a lot of good structures in place.

“It’s great to be back in South Africa, and we definitely want to say farewell to Rassie in a fitting manner.

“The vibe is good, we have a great bunch of guys in this side and we are going to give it our best shot.”

As for the remainder of his career, Joubert says he will definitely stay in South Africa for another year.

“I would love another opportunity to play for the Springboks, and I want to give myself a shot at getting back into the national plans. But if not, then I’ll give the Currie Cup a full go.”

Pending a fitness test on Ronnie Cooke, Marius Joubert finds himself benched for his final week of Super rugby for 2007.

By Chris Waldburger 365 Digital

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