The Cheetahs can rely on Joe Pietersen's boot to guide them past the ill-disciplined Blues in Bloemfontein on Friday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
Naka Drotské and his side will have had a fortnight to reflect on their victory over the Sharks by the time Saturday's match rolls around. While it would be ill-advised to dwell too much on one performance, there were lessons to be taken from that impressive result.
With Pietersen at flyhalf – the Cheetahs displayed greater restraint when in possession of the ball – something that isn't usually associated with the side from Bloem. They would be wise to take a similarly balanced approach into the match against the inconsistent but dangerous Blues.
The New Zealand side took their roughhouse tactics too far against the Stormers, and they paid the price. Had the match retained its full complement of players, though, I still feel they would've been overturned. This isn't the Blues side of old – their decline emphasised by their decision to resort to negative tactics.
Should Saturday's match take a similarly spiteful turn, Pietersen's metronomic boot could play a key role for the Cheetahs. Along with Willie le Roux, the Cheetahs now possess the personnel to play field-position and build scoreboard pressure with the boot.
The Cheetahs have made just two changes to the side that saw off the Sharks, with Cornal Hendricks returning on the right wing and Carl Wegner replacing the injured Lood de Jager in the second row.
Their opponents have made a couple of changes in a bid to freshen things up after playing over 50 minutes with 14 men against the Stormers.
All Blacks Charlie Faumuina and Patrick Tuipulotu will make their first starts of the season, while Brendon O’Connor and Luke Braid will start in the back row, with Steven Luatua dropping to the bench.
There’s also been a reshuffle in the backline with Hamish Northcott moving to No 12, Charles Piutau from fullback to 13, Melani Nanai, part of the wider training group, making his debut on the right wing and Lolagi Visinia returning to fullback.
The last five meetings between these sides have been won by the home side. The Cheetahs will fancy themselves to extend that record to six on Saturday, especially if Pietersen is on song with the boot.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Cheetahs 2, Blues 7
In Bloemfontein: Cheetahs 2, Blues 3
STATS AND FACTS
– The last six games between these sides have seen an average of 62 combined points scored.
– The last five games between these teams have been won by the home side.
– The Blues have never lost their first three games of a Vodacom Super Rugby season.
– The Blues are the only side to land all of their attempts at goal so far this season.
– They have also landed the joint-most penalty shots (nine).
– The Cheetahs are aiming for consecutive victories for the first time since May 2013.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Cheetahs||Joe Pietersen (13)||Jean Cook, Boom Prinsloo, Carl Wegner & Francois Venter (1)||Willie Britz (53)||Willie Britz (11)|
|Blues||Ihaia West (29)||Jimmy Cowan (1)||Charles Piutau (141)||James Parsons (19)|
Cheetahs – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Jean Cook, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Minnie.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 BG Uys, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Tienie Burger, 20 Boom Prinsloo, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Johann Sadie.
Blues – 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Melani Nanai, 13 Charles Piutau, 12 Hamish Northcott, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Jerome Kaino (c), 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Francis Saili.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images