Following the conclusion of the Currie Cup, ANDRE-PIERRE CRONJE pinpoints three takeaways from the Cheetahs’ season with them finishing in fifth place.
Player turnover hamstrings Free State
While the Cheetahs put in some memorable performances over the domestic season including a home drubbing of a strong Sharks team, their performances were hit and miss. They suffered big defeats by the Lions and Bulls and ultimately fell just short against WP that ended their playoff dreams.
Free State’s inconsistency can largely be put down to the disruption they have faced as a side. An uncertain future for the franchise has prompted a host of player departures – some mid-season – and it showed on the pitch.
As long as Free State remain unable to retain their core talent from one season to the next, they will struggle to win consistently. Their controversial expulsion from PRORugby will not help their cause.
Their defence remains an achilles heel
The Cheetahs finished the Currie Cup with the worst defensive stats of South Africa’s five ‘big’ sides. They leaked the most tries (28) and had the lowest points difference (31).
While Free State rugby is famous for its attacking intent and willingness to run the ball but an inability to complement that with solid defence has long held them back as a side. So it proved to be again this season.
The Lions, famously defensively porous in the past, showed the benefit of investing in solid defensive structures when they returned to Super Rugby and eventually contested three finals. The Cheetahs would do well to emulate this.
Frans Steyn has still got it
In the regular season Frans Steyn topped the list for Currie Cup points (73), carries (40) and kicking percentage (93%). Those stats are even more impressive given that Steyn regularly slotted his kicks at goal from over 50 metres out.
The big Springbok seemed to have a new lease of life since returning home. He showed that at 33 years young he is as versatile as ever, playing at 10, 15 and in the centres during the season.
With the Lions series just around the corner, Steyn’s Currie Cup form will serve as a timely reminder to Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber of everything he (still) has to offer.