Defence vital in basement battle

Superior defence will secure victory in the match between the Cheetahs and Sunwolves in Bloemfontein this Friday, writes JON CARDINELLI.

This game matters. The Cheetahs are searching for their first win at home in 2016. The Sunwolves are simply searching for their first win. Neither team wants to lose, just as neither side wants to finish the tournament at the bottom of the Africa 1 conference.

This raises a question regarding the preferred tactics of both teams. Both have favoured an all-out attacking approach in 2016, even if that approach has at times compromised the defence. Will the Cheetahs and the Sunwolves continue to run from all parts of the field this Friday, or will they play more tactically in order to secure a much-needed win?

The Sunwolves certainly have the players to play a balanced game. While they are endowed with many an attacking specialist, they also possess two strong tactical kickers in flyhalf Tusi Pisi and fullback Riaan Viljoen.

Coach Mark Hammett opted to rest the majority of his first-choice players when the Sunwolves played the Stormers in Cape Town last week. Unsurprisingly, Hammett has now reinstated his stars for a match that the Sunwolves are more likely to win.

The Cheetahs have disappointed in 2016. Their defence has been poor, as has their option-taking on attack.

They will be playing at home this Friday, but with home advantage comes the pressure to perform. They need to end their current losing streak. They need to show that they are better than the Sunwolves, who are new to the tournament.

It will be interesting to see how the Sunwolves fare in the latter stages of the match. This game will be the last of the Sunwolves' three-match tour to South Africa. Their fitness, particularly in the fourth quarter, will be under scrutiny.

By contrast, the Cheetahs should be mentally and physically fresh after enjoying a bye in round seven.

Overall: Cheetahs 1, Sunwolves 0
In Bloemfontein: N/a

– The Cheetahs will become the first team to face the Sunwolves twice and will be aiming to record back-to-back wins over the Japanese side following their 32-31 victory in round three.
– The Sunwolves are the only team the Cheetahs have defeated so far this season and they are on a run of three straight losses.
– The Sunwolves have lost both their matches away from home so far this campaign, conceding 79 points in the process.
– The Cheetahs have won an average of 14.2 lineouts per game so far this season, the most of any team, however their 85% lineout success rate is ranked just 12th in the competition.
– The Sunwolves’ Viliami Lolohea made four clean breaks in round seven, the second most of any player across the round and only one behind the Reds’ Samu Kerevi.
Source: Opta

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Cheetahs Niel Marais (48) Sergeal Petersen (3) Clayton Blommetjies (289) Paul Schoeman (55)
Sunwolves Tusi Pisi (53) Akihito Yamada (5) Akihito Yamada (387) Ed Quirk (55)

Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Nico Lee, 12 Francois Venter (c), 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Hilton Lobberts, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Oupa Mohoje, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Fred Zeilinga.

Sunwolves – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Viliami Lolohea, 13 Harumichi Tatekawa, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Mifiposeti Paea, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Yuki Yatomi, 8 Ed Quirk, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Tomás Leonardi, 5 Liaki Moli, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie (c), 1 Masataka Mikami.
Subs: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Ziun Gu, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Faatiga Lemalu, 20 Yoshiya Hosoda, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Yasutaka Sasakura.

Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

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Photo: Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

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