The Cheetahs and Southern Kings are set to clash in an epic PRO14 derby in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
While the Cheetahs are determined to register their sixth victory of the season to remain in third place in Conference A and gain some breathing space between themselves and the Glasgow Warriors on the log, the Kings are highly motivated to avenge last week’s agonising 31-30 derby defeat by their countrymen.
Should the Free Staters register a victory, they will maintain their dominance over the men from Port Elizabeth in the tournament, having won all six encounters between the sides to date.
Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie is adamant that his charges have to deliver a much better display at home to emerge victorious.
‘There were a lot of things going through my head in the last 10 minutes last week. I had three different speeches for the change room and the press, but I was just grateful we pulled it through,’ Fourie said.
‘We played really well in the closing minutes and put up a fight to pull the game back, and I’m proud of that. But, in saying that, we all know we need to improve and that will start with a win at home.
‘We want to be in the playoffs, and we are currently third on the log, so it is in our hands to stay there. We have played a game less than Glasgow and things are back on track,’ he added.
The Cheetahs are likely to welcome back physical loose forward Jasper Wiese – who has served his three-week suspension for a dangerous cleanout at a ruck – and Fourie was excited by the prospect after a tough forward battle in the first half against the Kings last Saturday.
‘We missed him. He is a skillful player with power and speed, and he brings a lot to the table.
‘They [Kings] definitely won the contact battle in the first half, and we spoke about that at half time and made a bit of a step up in the second half. If we can just get a bit more continuity, play through more phases and stretch the defence, I am pretty sure we will get the linebreaks and the tries we need.’
Kings assistant coach Braam van Straaten was still annoyed this week after his charges let slip a 30-12 lead in Port Elizabeth, and he emphasised the importance of good discipline and brute physicality to give them a chance of earning their second win of the season.
‘We worked so hard to win that game and we were controlling the match and winning the battle, and then in the dying minutes we lost composure and gave it away,’ said Van Straaten.
‘We are determined to go to Bloemfontein and turn that result around this week. We need to go out and perform to the best of our abilities without getting pulled into too many incidents. Our job is to focus on the game. It will be very physical but within the rules.’
Van Straaten added: ‘Cards have been an achilles heel for us, and we’ve been getting on the wrong side of the referee, so discipline has been a big focus for us this year.
‘High tackles are getting less and less, and we need to maintain that improvement. It is also crucial that we don’t give away soft penalties that will allow them to get into our half.’
The match gets under way at 5pm on Saturday.
Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images