A lack of defensive intensity in the first 40 minutes cost the Cheetahs any chance of victory against a Reds team low on confidence after the hammering against the Waratahs, writes MARK KEOHANE.
The Cheetahs were awful in their tour opener against the Rebels and while there was improvement against the Reds, there wasn’t the defensive intensity that characterised their 2013 Vodacom Super Rugby season.
The Cheetahs earned a play-off against the Brumbies a year ago in a campaign that was sustained as much by defence as any attacking mindset. The Cheetahs were the most balanced among the South African teams, but what surprised the opposition was the application on defence.
The Cheetahs have always been the people’s team and the team everyone picks as their second favourite. They have always played expansive rugby and been the prettiest losers. They have also been the most likeable and popular of the South African teams abroad.
In 2013 they managed to keep all the fans in playing with more balance. A year ago they looked like a team with a plan, which was to make the play-offs.
In the opening month of this year’s campaign they have looked like a team of individuals who want to attack, but not a collective unit who backs defensive structure.
The Cheetahs missed nine in 49 tackles in the opening 40 minutes against the Reds and conceded a four-try bonus point before changing ends. It was effectively game over.
Centre Johann Sadie was the biggest culprit in missing three of his 10 tackles. Willie le Roux missed two and the balance was made up of single misses.
There was an improvement in the second half, with four tackles missed and more attempts made. But it wasn’t good enough for a team with play-off aspirations.
The Reds won by 10 points but the defeat was more emphatic.
The Cheetahs, as a unit, were not great. Individually, Johan Goosen and Le Roux were the best of the attackers.
Goosen was a constant threat on attack, through carries and metres gained, and Le Roux is a menace whenever he gets the ball.
The Cheetahs were more direct in their attack than they have been in previous matches but still played too much side-to-side. They lacked structure and what kept them in the game was that the Reds lacked as much structure.
The result was not surprising. From a national perspective it was good to see Le Roux sparkle and Goosen get through 60 minutes and also become the highest point-scorer in Cheetahs Super Rugby history in going past Sias Ebersohn’s 204 points.
Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images