Pietersen must rediscover touch

The Cheetahs will need Joe Pietersen to execute accurately if they're to prevent another drubbing in Hamilton on Saturday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.

For 50 minutes, the Cheetahs went toe-to-toe with the Crusaders, before a yellow card and some poor defensive lapses resulted in a demoralising 57-14 defeat. The scoreline may have been a tad harsh on the visitors, but their capitulation will be a cause of concern for the coaching staff.

Things aren't about to get any easier for the Cheetahs, with this weekend's match against the Chiefs quickly followed by a trip to Canberra to face the Brumbies. A response is needed or the tour, and their season, could quickly spiral out of control.

The season started so well for Naka Drotské's men, with Pietersen at the core of wins over the Sharks and Blues. His tactical ingenuity meant the Cheetahs played the match in the right areas against the Sharks, while it was his accuracy off the tee that contributed to the victory over the Blues.

He has struggled to reach those heights since, although he hasn't been helped by the loss of Sarel Pretorius on his inside and the Cheetahs' failures up front. Against the Crusaders, the Cheetahs were bullied for much of the 80 minutes, and Pietersen was forced to survive off scraps.

Drotské has made a number of changes to his side in a bid to freshen things up, with the Bok duo of Willie le Roux and Coenie Oosthuizen being rested after featuring in five consecutive matches. Shaun Venter will start at scrumhalf ahead of Tian Meyer, while top try-scorer Francois Venter is also handed a breather, with Michael van der Spuy given a starting role at inside centre.

The Chiefs will welcome back Sonny Bill Williams after he missed last weekend's defeat to the Sharks through concussion. They will also field a new front row, with Pauliasi Manu returning from injury, where he is joined by Quentin MacDonald and Ben Tameifuna.

On their last visit to Hamilton, the Cheetahs lost 45-3, while they have yet to taste victory in four previous attempts.

In Cape Town, we witnessed the Chiefs' capabilities on the counter-attack, while the Stormers paid the price for a poor tactical-kicking display. Pietersen has shown already this season he is able to control the tempo of the match with his boot. He'll need to do it once again on Saturday, or the Cheetahs could be in for another long night.

Overall: Chiefs 5, Cheetahs 1, Draws 3
In Hamilton: Chiefs 3, Cheetahs 0, Draws 1

– The Chiefs’ last home match against the Cheetahs provided their largest ever Super Rugby winning margin (42 points).
– The last meeting between the sides provided the highest-scoring draw in Super Rugby history; the match finished 43-43 in Bloemfontein.
– It was also the third draw in nine meetings between the teams.
– The Chiefs have the best tackling success rate in the competition (89%), while the Cheetahs’ is the third worst (84%).
– These two sides’ try-scoring records are identical in the second, third and fourth quarters of matches this season, but the Chiefs have scored two more (four) in the opening 20 minutes of matches.

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Chiefs Aaron Cruden (60) James Lowe (3) James Lowe (559) Matt Symons (62)
Sharks Pat Lambie (90) Francois Venter (3) Francois Venter (167) Oupa Mohoje (51)

Chiefs – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Charlie Ngatai/Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Tom Marshall, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Mitchell Graham, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Johan Bardoul, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Marty McKenzie.

Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Jean Cook, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Stephan Coetzee, 1 BG Uys.
Subs: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Danie Mienie, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Willie Britz, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Rayno Benjamin.

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Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images