‘Cheetahs deserved to win’

What former Bok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Cheetahs' 36-16 win over the Bulls in the Currie Cup final in Bloemfontein.

On the final

‘Well done to the Cheetahs, they deserved to win the Currie Cup.

'First of all, the game was littered with mistakes, but it wasn’t a match that was depressing or disappointing at all. There was so much effort put in by both teams. You’ve got to start somewhere and if South African rugby is going to move in the right direction, we’ve got to get all our players – forwards and backs – to play with confidence and the ability to hold on to the ball in pressure situations.

'Credit to both teams, there weren’t many tries early on, but they kept the ball in hand and played attacking rugby. There were lots of positives coming from this game.

'The laws nowadays give a tremendous advantage to the side that holds on to the ball. When the Cheetahs were sitting with 72% possession in that first half, they managed to get a lot of penalties because the referees now tend to penalise the defensive side. So that again is a lesson. If you hold on to the ball, you can earn penalties and build a score.

'Sergeal Petersen was outstanding in the semi-final and again in the final. He has blistering pace, senses a try-scoring opportunity well, runs with the ball in two hands, passes well and is very unselfish. This guy has tremendous finishing ability and he tackles well. Petersen is well worth an opportunity on the Boks’ end-of-year tour.'

On big-screen replays

‘Neither the ref nor the TMO saw Piet van Zyl’s tackle on Clayton Blommetjies and I think it was the replay on the big screen in the stadium that drew the attention of the officials. It’s quite important that there shouldn’t be replays shown again and again by the home television producer, because it can have a huge influence on a referee’s decision and ultimately the outcome of a game. Getting a producer to play back something that no one else spotted, gives him/her an undue influence on the game.

‘If we go back to when Schalk Burger was tackled by Jerome Kaino and the Boks kicked a match-winning penalty, it was SuperSport who played it again and again and eventually drew the attention of referee Wayne Barnes.

‘Now somewhere it is going to happen to us. We are going to Twickenham to play England and something could happen there that they will play over and over and I don’t think that is correct. You have a ref, his two assistants and the TMO and if they don’t see it, it’s not up to the television producer to alert them.’

On Cheetahs team culture

‘One of the key elements of player retention is to create a good culture from the leadership down. The more trust between the director of rugby, the head coach and the assistant coaches, the better chance you have of keeping your players. There was a period in the Cheetahs’ recent history when they lost players like Trevor Nyakane and Adriaan Strauss, who at the time asked for an enquiry into the running of the franchise. And you can tell when things like that happen, there is discomfort.

'Rory Duncan, Franco Smith and the rest of the young coaching staff turned things around. It didn’t happen immediately. They struggled in Super Rugby, let’s not beat around the bush. But the Currie Cup has really given them a lease of life. Let’s hope that what happened with the Lions under Johan Ackermann, will happen with the Cheetahs.'

On Franco Smith’s coaching style

‘He did a great job with Treviso. Italian teams playing the RoboDirect, as it was called back then, always used to finish 13th and 14th. When he was coach, Treviso slowly made their way up the standings. I was the Italy coach then, and took about eight players from Treviso because they played so well under him. His players were always fit, innovative and defensively solid. Franco is an outstanding coach and I think he is an asset to the Springbok setup.’

Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images

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Nick Mallett