Cheetahs rue poor decisions

Free State Cheetahs coach Rory Duncan says their decision-making let them down in their defeat to Western Province, reports BRENTON CHELIN.

Leading by two points with three minutes to go, the Cheetahs conspired to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The loss has all but confined them to also-rans in this year's competition. They'll need to become the first team other than the Lions to win at Ellis Park this season, coupled with a highly unlikely victory for Griquas at Loftus if they're to sneak into the semi-finals.

It's a position they could've avoided had they shown some composure in Bloemfontein last Saturday. While their instinctive nature makes this team so enjoyable to watch, it also makes them endlessly frustrating.

Failure to close out the tight matches has plagued them all season, with home draws against the Chiefs in Super Rugby and the Sharks during the Currie Cup springing to mind. On Saturday they made some inexplicable decisions which contributed to their downfall.

Trailing by a single point with the bonus point already wrapped up, the Cheetahs attempted a quick tap when the points were on offer. Tactical errors like these undermined what was a strong performance against a good WP team.

'To be in a commanding position and then lose the game in the final seconds is tough, and there were three or four things that went wrong for us in the final exchanges,' admitted Duncan. 'We had a good opportunity with an attacking lineout and we were looking to slow the clock and set up a maul, but we lost the lineout and put pressure on ourselves as a result.

'We have had a chat about some of the decisions that we made, and we have acknowledged that collectively we need to start making better decisions in the latter part of games, especially when we have a narrow lead. A strength of our current squad is that the guys are young and enthusiastic, but we now need to learn to make more correct decisions under pressure.'

The Cheetahs will head to Ellis Park this weekend, the scene of their heaviest defeat of the year. They conceded eight tries in a 60-25 loss on the final weekend of the Super Rugby season, assuring them of the wooden spoon in the South African conference.

'The guys were very disappointed with our last encounter at Ellis Park,' said Duncan. 'We discussed it at the time and the guys put their hands up and realised that the effort was perhaps not there. We're looking forward to the opportunity to set things straight this week.'

With the conclusion of the Rugby Championship last weekend, Duncan will welcome back three Springboks to his squad. Oupa Mohoje, Lood de Jager and Trevor Nyakane are all eligible for the remainder of the Currie Cup, and the Cheetahs are expected to make use of them this weekend.

'We're happy to have them back in our set-up,' said Duncan. 'We haven’t received any instruction from Saru [with regards to how they must be used], but their game time hasn’t been anything extravagant, so we'll probably be looking to get them involved.'

Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images