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Cheetahs deserve respect

  • 19 Jul 2013

Whether they win or lose in this Sunday's play-off, the Cheetahs have done South African rugby proud, writes JOHN ALLAN.

Super 15 rugby is nearing its end. The Bulls are through to the semi-finals and deservedly so, as their performance has been consistent throughout the campaign.

Don't judge them on last week’s performance as the Stormers, like the Sharks, played out of their socks. The players wanted to prove a point as they had let down their teams in their earlier performances.

The team that have impressed me in this tournament are the Cheetahs. Who would have said that they would be in the last six and playing for top honours?

No matter the result this weekend against the Brumbies, they have my full respect. I will be in full cry, shouting for them as they play in Canberra, half-way across the world, but it will be extremely difficult for them.

Jake White, the Brumbies coach, will never underestimate the Cheetahs and will let his team know that to win they will have to play their best rugby, which paves the way for an entertaining game.

Let’s look to how the Cheetahs made it through: they do not possess the riches in talent that the Stormers and the Sharks have at their disposal. What they do have is a team that plays as a unit and players who look happy and content with one another. There are no superstars.

So how do you get a happy team? Firstly, it stems from the coaches. Naka Drotské has come of age as a good coach and has built a solid management team around him; people who he can trust and share his vision.

Secondly, you need a good captain and Adriaan Strauss fits that role perfectly. As a player he fulfils his role to perfection and leads from the front, but you can see from his body language that he keeps a cool head (except when someone grabs the family jewels) and makes the right decisions under pressure.

Thirdly, as a team you have to buy into the vision of the coaching management and work as one so that everyone understands the playing pattern.

At face value, this looks all good and they play an exciting brand of rugby. And they have sorted out their defence, so not only do they score tries but they don't leak any through a weak defensive system.

This reminds me of a story from my playing days and it will illustrate what good coaches should be doing. It was back in 1995 and as a Sharks team we had a meeting pre-season with our coaching staff, headed by Ian McIntosh, focusing on winning the Currie Cup.

Mac wrote on the board his pattern of how we should play, but when we went through it, both forwards and backs disagreed with Mac. Instead of throwing his toys out of the cot, he asked us to share with him how we think we should play.

First went the backs, but when they had finished the tight forwards threw up their arms in disgust as we would be running all day from one side of the field to the other. When it was the forwards’ turn, the backs did the same as they knew they would never get the ball because we would have kept it within 20m of the forwards.

Mac looked at all three scenarios, rubbed all of them out and proceeded to write a new game plan using the best of all three. The rest is history as we went on to win back-to-back Currie Cups in ‘95 and ‘96.

Good luck to the Cheetahs, no matter what happens, we are proud of you.

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