Friday, January 13, 2006

The Rasta Mahn is nervy in the olde 'Hood

According to Jan de Koning who had written this piece on, Mr Johan Erasmus, Head Coach of the Vodacom Free State Cheetahs, is a nervy man as the Cheetahs travels today to his old metropolis, Port Elizabeth.

'Nervous' Erasmus ready for the challenge
Monday January 09 2006
Benetton Treviso heading to South Africa

Rassie Erasmus, admittedly very nervous ahead of his first season as a Super 14 coach, is looking forward to the Cheetahs' debut season in SANZAR's provincial showpiece event.

The Cheetahs, who are back in training at their Bloemfontein base, have an interesting pre-season programme - which includes matches against the Southern Spears, the Western Force and Italian powerhouse Benetton Treviso.

They will open their campaign in the Super 14 on February 10, when the Cheetahs play the Bulls in Bloemfontein.

But for now Erasmus' focus is firmly on the pre-season friendlies, which will be his yardstick to see where his team stands.

"You are always nervous before the start of the season, especially the Super 14 [a much bigger challenge than the Currie Cup, which the Cheetahs won last year]," Erasmus said,

"It will take us a few games to get the cohesion right. The main aim of our pre-season matches is to gel the team into a unit.

"We have the talent, the [players have the commitment and we have all the facilities. There is nothing I can complain about. It is now just a matter of putting it all into play in the warm-up matches," he added.

The Cheetahs do have a few pre-season injury concerns.

Springbok loose forward Henro Scholtz is still recovering from his shoulder surgery, Bian Vermaak (a lock/flank) is also recovering from a shoulder injury, Rory Duncan (another utility forward) is recovering from knee surgery and wing Gavin Passens is also struggling with a leg injury.

There remains doubt over the availability of Springbok prop CJ van der Linde, who has a serious foot injury. Although the exact extent of the injury has not been confirmed, Erasmus has him down as a doubtful starter for the tournament.

The warm-up match against the Southern Spears, in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, is the ideal blow-out for the Cheetahs.

Erasmus says he knows very little against the opposition (who is a combination of Eastern Province, Border and South Western Districts).

"The match will give us an indication as to how far we are down the road - in terms of match fitness and contact play," Erasmus said.

He won't be fielding a full-strength team and will take a 26-man squad to PE. All 26 players will get game time, most of them at least a half.

After that it is a trip to Pert where they will face the Western Force on January 21.

Erasmus feels it will be an ideal "dry run" to see how his charges cope with travelling.

The final warm-up is against Benetton Treviso, in Welkom on January 28. Treviso is the current log leaders in the Italian Super 10 competition, although their Heineken Cup form has not been as impressive.

They also have a number of well-known South Africans in their ranks.

Players like utility back Marius Goosen and utility forward Marco Wentzel will know exactly what to expect of the Cheetahs.

"They will be a great test for us ahead of the Super 14," Erasmus said.

Springbok flank Juan Smith will be leading the Cheetahs, after taking over from recently retired Naka Drotské.

Smith, who made his Springbok debut against Scotland in 2002, is a very experienced player and played in the 2003 World Cup. He is also confident ahead of the upcoming season.

"We are fortunate to have very good forwards and a talented backline," Smith said. "We have Meyer Bosman and Willem de Waal at fly-half and Keith Lowen and Barry Goodes at centre. And the list of good players goes on."

By Jan de Koning

Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]