Friday, July 14, 2006

Western Province vs. Cheetahs Preview

It is going to be a classic. Here we have two teams who always look to play running rugby (okay, WP only of late), always seem to want to entertain, and with a couple of youngster desperate to prove a point.

On the one hand, we have a team that seems to be building a new culture, under a new captain, with a host of unknowns, and on the other hand, we have a team with a brilliant culture, who as early as last year, had a bunch of unknowns, and is playing with a lot of confidence.

When looking at the Cheetahs and Western Province teams, I cannot help but think how similar this Western Province team is, to the Cheetahs team of last year.

The Cheetahs last year got a new coach with new and often radical ideas - if you were a Cheetah supporter (remember the hate mails?), a bunch of unknown and unproven players, but yet, through the culture they built within the team, they became Currie Cup champions against all odds.

Western Province, coming of a disappointing season as the Stormers, losing a host of players to national duty, sitting with a coach with so much to prove, is actually also starting to surprise a lot of people, including their own supporters!

There is nothing like having a culture in a team. Of course you would want it to be a winning one, but as any ex-player will tell you, playing in a team which is basically an extended family goes a long way to building a winning culture.

The Cheetahs did not win all their games last year, but they won the ones that mattered. Why? Well I believe it is simply because they were a team that played for each other, and when the chips are down, you stand up and be counted.

The roles the senior guys like Ollie, Naka, Os and the likes played in the Cheetahs campaign last year is hugely underestimated. These guys, leaders and icons, instilled a belief in the younger guys that made them belief they can accomplish the impossible, and they did.

The role of your leader(s) is what drives young, inexperienced players, to achieve the unachievable, and it seems Western Province might just have found one such person, Luke Watson.

Now I am not saying Western Province will win this game, far from it, I am saying though that the Cheetahs can expect a team that will not give up, will not lie down, and will never say die – something we have not seen in Western Province rugby for a while.

So let’s look at the game.

The Cheetahs are coming over some pretty impressive victories, and it is obvious that they are playing with a lot of confidence and more importantly, like the champions they are.

You often find that guys will live on reputations or titles once they achieve greatness like winning the Currie Cup, but not these boys.

I think the thing that has impressed me most about the Cheetahs of 2006 is that they play total rugby, or 15 man rugby.

With Naka and Rassie guiding the boys and old stalwarts like Ollie enjoying his rugby again and guiding the youngster with Ryno van der Merwe, it is very clear that the Cheetahs, although Currie Cup champions, are not resting on their laurels or reputations.

They want to go out and prove 2005 was no fluke, and boy they are doing it emphatically at the moment.

There is an air of confidence about this team, and if WP has any chance of beating the Cheetahs, it will be to shock them, or surprise them.

Rugby is a mind game as much as it is a physical sport. The Cheetahs will arrive in Cape Town feeling that they must simply do what they do best, without being flashy, and they will win this game. And I agree, they are a far more settled, cohesive unit that WP, so the Cheetahs should simply switch on Saturday, and focus on their strengths, and they will win – fact!

Western Province on the other hand, is coming of impressive displays against the Sharks and the Blue Bulls. The boys are starting to gel as a unit, and they are starting to believe. They will look at this game thinking, we have a chance – and they do, but they will not be as confident in their game plan or ability to walk away with a win as the Cheetahs will be.

What will happen though is that if Western Province manages to play the type of rugby they did against the Sharks and the Bulls in the first 30 minutes, their belief will grow, and when their belief starts to grow, so will their confidence, and that might just sneak them a win on Saturday.

What the Cheetahs need to guard against is being too calm or too relaxed in the opening 30 minutes. They have the team to beat Western Province, they should know this and they should play like it, but they should play like it from the 1st minute of the game, not the 30th.

If Western Province manage to dominate the first 30 minutes, and build up some sort of lead, we will have a cracker of a game and they might sneak a win, but if the Cheetahs play like the champions they are from the word go, they should take it by 12 or more.

The Cheetah tight 5 should have the upper hand in this match, I do not believe that they will completely dominate, but I do believe that their ball, will be their ball, and some of Western Provinces ball, will also be their ball.

The battle to watch is going to be with the loosies. Luke Watson is hitting some serious form, and if Ryno and Co allow him to dominate the breakdown situation as he has done in the past two weeks, they will be in trouble. But in my mind, Luke will be up against one of the best in Ryno, and he won’t have the freedom he had against the Bulls and Sharks.

The Cheetahs backline is more settled, and if Willem de Waal is on song, we should see some great play from these guys who seem to grow with confidence every week.

Western Province will feel somewhat disrupted with the loss of Peter Grant, and I won’t be surprised if De Wet Barry takes the field ahead of Sarel Potgieter. In fact, that is exactly what I would have done to bring some calmness into the Western Province backline.

If this game becomes loose, Western Province will dominate, but I believe Rassie and his troops will keep it tight in the opening exchanges and try to dominate territory and possession releasing their backs more in the last 30.

Willem de Waal will play a territorial game and will look to dominate with the boot, if he gets this right, the Cheetahs will simply squeeze WP into submission.

For Western Province, if they control and disrupt the breakdown, and pressure Willem de Waal, they will be in with a shout.

Here is hoping to some great rugby!

Preditcion: Cheetahs by 12

Comments:
Its Currie Cup time again and the fans are out in full force.

Looking forward to a cracker of a game!
 
Greta write-up PA

You bailed me out here- now I dont have to write a preview :-))

Pls post on RW as well - as more people will see it

Will comment tonite on the arti

Thanks again.

Hope as well its a good game- time for the domestiCCtiff to become a quality competition again

GO BOKKE

GO CHEETAHS GO CHAMPS!!!
 
For Western Province, if they control and disrupt the breakdown, and pressure Willem de Waal, they will be in with a shout.

Hell PA- Watson & Co were haing a singalong and the Cheetahs were not invited :-)

De Waal is not the answer !
 
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