Tuesday, February 20, 2007
FOREPLAY: WEEK 4 S 14
If you care to lend your ears to the Waratah management it seems that all & sundry was used to distract them in their prematch warmup. It seems that CoachErasmus is doing whatever he seems necessary to gain a little bit of advantage.
Tthe most successful coach in Super rugby history do not seem to be fazed to much by this. Coming from a scoreless loss against the resurgent Lions- it seems that he has other things on his mind. Playing without his All Blacks isnt the easiest thing and the general quality that the South African teams are producing in this years tournament is rather better than previously.
So this game will surely be a hotly contested one- A well balanced home side vs the most awesome Super rugby team - who is misfiring on some cylinders.
As usual I will post the run up in the press on this game as comments.
South African Tour Update #1
February 20, 2007
The Crusaders went through a light training run today at the prestigious Bishops School in Cape Town as the build up begins to Saturday night’s Rebel Sport Super 14 contest against the Cheetahs.
A number of the players were restricted to gym duty today as they continued their recoveries after the physical exertions involved in last weekend’s 3-9 loss against the Lions in Johannesburg.
Rico Gear, Rua Tipoki, Johnny Leo’o and Campbell Johnstone (pictured) were among the players who hit the gym while the rest of the squad worked out with a session of anaerobic games under the watchful eye of the Crusaders Strength and Conditioning coach Ashley Jones.
The session was held in sparkling conditions, and in temperatures in the vicinity of 30 degrees, in the shadow of Table Mountain.
As the Crusaders finished their session, their place on the main Bishops rugby field was taken by the Chiefs squad, who are still in Cape Town as they build up to their weekend engagement against the Bulls in Pretoria.
The Chiefs are 0 & 3 so far for 2007, having last weekend been edged out 16-21 by the Stormers in Cape Town.
Tomorrow (Tuesday), the Crusaders will step up their preparations for the round four match in Bloemfontein with a training session at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.
Stellenbosch, a short drive from Cape Town, is the heartland of the Western Cape wine district – home to most of South Africa’s premier vineyards and wine estates.
With Wednesday being the players’ day off, and an opportunity for the tourists to take in some of the many tourists delights that Cape Town offers, the Crusaders starting XV for Saturday’s match will not be named until Thursday lunchtime (South African time).
The side will be posted on this website.
If they post this much info about us on their public site- what do they really know?
Round Four – Saturday February 24, 2007
Crusaders v Central Cheetahs, Vodacom Park , Bloemfontein, 5.10am (Sunday Feb 25, NZ time)
Who are they?: South Africa ’s newest franchise, the Central Cheetahs represent the predominantly rural high veldt provincial unions of the Free State Cheetahs, Griquas and the Northern Free State Griffons. Free State participated as a stand alone entity in the 1997 Super 12, and from a year later was a junior partner in the Cats franchise.
How they fared in 2006: It was always going to be a big ask of the Cheetahs, stepping up to Super rugby again after a nine-year absence, but the previous season’s Currie Cup-winning outfit acquitted itself well. Although three of the side’s five wins were gathered against fellow South African outfits, whose playing style was something the Cheetahs players were well versed in, the newcomers were also fiercely competitive in many of the matches against the Australian and New Zealand sides. The South Africans narrowly missed out on beating the Chiefs at Hamilton , losing a thriller 32-33.
The last meeting – Crusaders 53, Cheetahs 17 at Jade, April 15
If anything, timing was the Cheetahs’ biggest enemy as the competition newcomers were administered a seven-try lesson at Jade. The South Africans rolled into town to face a Crusaders outfit that had been thoroughly tested during two ‘semi-final like’ battles with the Hurricanes and then the Waratahs, over the previous two weeks. As a result, the defending champions were razor sharp in their intensity and their accuracy, which produced a level of play the out-classed visitors simply couldn’t hope to match. During a clinical first half, the Crusaders scored at nearly a point a minute on their way to a 39-10 halftime advantage. While that settled the match as an effective contest, the Cheetahs did at least show plenty of grit in pegging the Crusaders back to a 14-7 scoreline for the second period.
The Man in charge: Rassie Erasmus could easily be the next Springbok coach, such has been the level of the former Bok captain’s impact on the Cheetahs since he took over. Erasmus won the Vodacom Cup first up with the side in 2004, and has since taken the Cheetahs to back-to-back Currie Cups in 2005 and 2006, as well as presiding over a useful Super 14 return in the Cheetahs’ first season. Noted for his novel methods, Erasmus last year used coloured lights from his coaches’ box during the Currie Cup to transmit instantaneous messages to his players
The main man: Springbok flanker Juan Smith was a class act for the Cheetahs on their Super 14 return, and promises to be even more important second-time-around. The Free State flanker’s athleticism and doggedness have marked him out as a Springbok regular despite some hot competition for places among the South African loose forwards at national team level. While not always entirely comfortable with the Cheetahs’ captaincy, Smith leads by deed rather than word, with his ‘follow me’ approach having long since made him a darling of the Bloemfontein faithful.
One to watch: Man of the match in the last Currie Cup final, openside flanker Kabamba Floors’ reward came late in the year when he was called over to star for South Africa during its Test win at Twickenham at the end of November. The African flanker is readily identifiable, almost as much for his peroxided hair as for his energetic approach to on-field activities where he is McCaw-like at the breakdowns!
Leader of the Pack: He might not be a current Bok, or even the Cheetahs captain, but second row Barend Pieterse was the team’s ‘Go to’ man during Currie Cup, and he always delivered. Pieterse’s poaching of opposing lineout throws was a major factor that kept the Cheetahs in the drawn Currie Cup final with the Bulls. He promises to wield a similar influence in Super 14.
Head to head records:
Overall: Crusaders 2 wins
At Cheetahs’ home venues: Crusaders 1 win
1997: Free State Cheetahs 11, Crusaders 16
2006: Crusaders 53, Cheetahs 17
The Elephant Century: Colourful prop Ollie le Roux has always been a popular figure in Super rugby. He also starts 2007 poised to achieve a notable milestone by becoming the first South African player to post 100 Super rugby caps. Le Roux, whose real name is Andre-Henri but has been answering to ‘Ollie’ (or ‘Elephant’ as he is popularly known) since he was a child, is already the most capped Shark in Super rugby. He moved up to join the Cheetahs in time for their Super rugby debut and starts the second Super 14 with 99 competition caps to his name. The 130 kilogram prop will be the 13th player to 100 Super rugby caps, following on from six Australians and six New Zealanders.
Interesting Fact: While the Cheetahs’ five wins and eventual 10th placing represented a relatively modest performance on their return to the Super rugby table, the side could easily have been a semi-final contender had a few tight results fallen their way. Four of the Cheetahs’ eight defeats were sustained by margins of five points or less. This reflected a lack of confidence under pressure that was perhaps to be expected of the Cheetahs players, given that so many of them lacked previous Super rugby experience.
The 2007 Squad: Meyer Bosman, Philip Burger, Michael Claassens, Ronnie Cook, Willem de Waal, Jannie du Plessis, Wian du Preez, Os du Randt, Rory Duncan, Lucas Floors, Bevin Fortuin, Alwyn Hollenbach, Marius Joubert, Gareth Krause, Herkie Kruger, Ollie le Roux, Jonathan Mokuena, Siyabonga Mangweni, Hendrik Meyer, Noel Oelschig, Gavin Passens, Barend Pieterse, Giscard Pieters, Hendro Scholtz, Juan Smith (captain), Adriaan Strauss, Richardt Strauss, CJ van der Linde, Ryno van der Merwe, Corniel van Zyl.
Colours: Orange & white
Home Venue: Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Free State Cheetahs Playing Record 1997
Played 11, Won 5, Lost 6
Points Scored: 301
Points Against: 327
Tries Scored: 32
Central Cheetahs Playing Record 2006
Played 13, Won 5, Lost 8
Points Scored: 272
Points Against: 367
Tries Scored: 27
2006: Rassie Erasmus, Helgard Muller & Franco Smith
2007: Rassie Erasmus, Helgard Muller & Franco Smith
1997: Helgard Muller
2006: Juan Smith
2007: Juan Smith
Team Records (includes both 1997 and 2006 campaigns)
Most Points in a match: 49, v Highlanders, 1997
Most Points in a season: 301, 1997
Most Tries in a match: 7, v Highlanders 1997
Most Tries in a season: 32, 1997
Biggest winning margin: 31 (49-18) v Highlanders, 1997
Most Points in a match: 26, Meyer Bosman, v Stormers, 2006
Most Points in a season: 86, Jannie de Beer, 1997
Most Points in a career: 86, Jannie de Beer
Most Tries in a match: 2, Chris Badenhorst v Highlanders, 1997
2, Chris Badenhorst, v Bulls, 1997
2, Naka Drotske, v Highlanders, 1997
2, Giscard Pieters, v Sharks 2006
2, Bevan Fortuin, v Blues, 2006
Most Tries in a season: 5, Chris Badenhorst, 1997
5, Giscard Pieters, 2006
Most Tries in a career: 5, Chris Badenhorst, 1997
5, Giscard Pieters, 2006
Most Conversions in a match: 7, Jannie de Beer, v Highlanders, 1997
Most Conversions in a season: 19, Jannie de Beer, 1997
Most Conversions in a career: 19, Jannie de Beer, 1997
Most Penalty goals in a match: 8, Meyer Bosman, v Stormers, 2006
Most Penalty goals in a season: 21, Meyer Bosman, 2006
Most Penalty goals in a career: 21, Meyer Bosman
Most Dropped goals in a match: 1 on three occasions
Most Dropped goals in a season: 1 on three occasions
Most Dropped goals in a career: 1 by three players
Most Appearances: 24, Os du Randt
Verbeterde balvaardighede ’n wenresep vir Cheetahs
Feb 21 2007 12:05:21:800AM - (SA)
EERS planloos in 2006 en nou ’n wedstrydwenner.
Dié hoofstuk in die verhaal van die agterlyn van die Vodacom-Cheetahs kon nie sonder verbeterde balvaardighede geskryf word nie.
Volgens Franco Smith, agterlynafrigter van die Cheetahs, gee dié verbetering die Cheetahs die selfvertroue om die bal weer soos van ouds wyd te versprei.
Teen die Waratahs het die Cheetah-snellers, Philip Burger, Ronnie Cooke en Eddie Fredericks, drie van die sentrale streekspan se vier drieë binne die eerste 20 minute van die Super 14-wedstryd behaal.
Dít beklemtoon dat die Cheetahs die regte balans tussen hardlooprugby en konserwatiewe tienmanrugby gevind het. En dit kan net op die regte tydstip in die strawwe kompetisie wees voordat die Cheetahs Saterdag om 19:10 op Vodacompark in Bloemfontein teen die Crusaders speel.
In 2006 het die Cheetah-agterlyn, om padlangs te praat, nie sy deel soos die hartlandspan se agttal bygedra nie. Die Cheetah-agterlyn is meer as dikwels in 2006 as planloos bestempel.
Die Cheetahs is as voorspelbaar beskou omdat die sentrale streekspan slegs seges met sy agttal en die skopskoen van Willem de Waal (losskakel) kon behaal.
Maar in die Cheetahs se eerste wedstryd vanjaar teen die Stormers het die agterlyn van die sentrale streekspan ’n groot verbetering getoon.
Dié opwaartse kurwe het teen die Bulle voortgeduur om nuwe hoogtes teen die Waratahs te bereik.
Nou kan Smith-hulle seges met hardlooprugby of tienmanrugby behaal en dit maak die Cheetahs ’n gedugter teenstander as in 2006 om mee rekening te hou.
Op ’n vraag of die Cheetah-agterlyn sy voorste vertoning nog in die Super-reeks in die eerste 40 minute teen die Waratahs gelewer het, sê Smith: “Ja, dit is hoe ons graag wil hê ons agterlyn moet hardloop.
“Dít het nie oornag gebeur nie. Dít was ’n lang proses en ons het hard aan die spelers se balvaardighede geskaaf.”
Smith sê hy dink die agttal se vaardighede het ook sedert verlede jaar verbeter.
“Ons (as agterlyn) sal nie grootkop ná die vertoning teen die Waratahs kry nie, aangesien daar nog baie harde werk is wat ons moet doen. Maar dit is lekker om te weet dat ons drieë van eerstefasebesit kan behaal.”
Dinge kan wel nog vir die Cheetahs in dié reeks skeefloop, maar vir eers verdien Smith-hulle ook ’n pluimpie vir die regte versterking van spelerskorps sedert verlede jaar.
Spelers soos Alwyn Hollenbach (veelsydige agterspeler), Bevin Fortuin (heelagter), Giscard Pieters (vleuel), Hendrik Meyer (binnesenter), Gavin Passens (vleuel), De Waal en JW Jonker (senter) moet nog in dié reeks losgelaat word – ’n aanduiding dat die Cheetahs ook vanjaar agterlangs genoeg reserwekrag het om enduit in dié reeks ’n krag te bly.
# TV: Saterdag van 19:00 af op SS/M-Net en SS1/DStv.
'When we click, we are unstoppable'
Tuesday 20th February 2007
Cheetahs flier Philip Burger is emerging as one of the most exciting players in Super rugby this year. But most are surprised when they learn that this try-scoring machine has already been around the block.
Philip Burger was on his way to joining the legion of players who start with promise but never take that extra step to the next level.
After starting out his career playing for Free State Under-19, Burger shuffled between various smaller unions such as the Eagles and the Pumas, playing mostly Vodacom Cup rugby, but a return to the Cheetahs has re-ignited a sparkling career.
"After I started at Free State there were just no opportunities for me. So I packed my bags and headed for the smaller unions. That is how I learnt my rugby.
"But Bloemfontein was always home, and, when I decided to return, Rassie Erasmus [Cheetahs coach] decided to give me a go with the Cheetahs.
"Rassie was the only guy who ever believed in me.'
What could have ended up as a slow death to a journeyman career was turned into a new beginning.
"I don't think I am playing that much better than I did four years ago. I have just finally been given the opportunity."
After a slow fight into the Cheetahs starting lineup in last year's Currie Cup, Burger demonstrated his try-scoring ability by ending the competition as the top try-scorer - despite only starting in four matches.
"It was a fight for a starting position. In the first instance, I had to prove myself. And when I did, I left the coach with no choice but to select me."
And one gets the impression that this is how Burger plans to advance his career. Just simply leave the critics with no choice but to acknowledge the talent.
After a barnstorming Currie Cup, Burger was chosen for the South African Sevens side, where he has enjoyed great success again.
"Sevens has taught me a great deal about rugby. I have learnt to attack space, and it has also given me a great deal of confidence. Your defence is also something that can only improve when you play Sevens."
Never was his sense of space more vivified than when he turned the Waratahs defence inside out when he ran in a try from a backline move off first phase possession - a rarity in the South African game.
Burger also showed that he is equally at home at fullback.
"My favoured position is right wing, but nowadays wings and fullbacks all need to be able to play the same game."
Burger's pilgrimage away from Bloemfontein and subsequent return means he is ideally positioned to note what it is that has taken the Cheetahs from under-achievers to world beaters in a matter of years.
"I don't think you can say it is all down to Rassie, but he has made a big difference to our rugby. The most important thing he has done is given the guys a belief in themselves.
"We play for each other, and we play as a team.
"In rugby it is no use having three or four superstars and leaving it at that. Everybody needs to play their part."
Burger is now 27 years old. In the modern game it is the teenagers who are usually described as the emerging talents. Burger is, by his own admission, something of a late bloomer.
"I am like my dad (father Thys played for Northern Transvaal and South Africa on the flank). He also only broke into Currie Cup rugby when he was 26 or 27.
"I think I have grown stronger as I have become a little older. A guy like Richardt Strauss was able to play Currie Cup rugby while he was still at school. I was not ready when I was 19.
"My development has also meant I have been free of injuries, and I have never had to have an operation."
Following in father Thys's footsteps in becoming a Springbok, is "the dream" for the younger Philip.
"It is a dream and a goal. But it is not everything. If I don't make it, I won't be down. At the moment I am doing well for the Cheetahs, and that is enough."
Burger is brimming full of the steady confidence with which the Cheetahs have conducted themselves this year.
"We have some aspects of our game that we need to work on, such as issues in the line-out as well as our defence.
"But like we showed in the first twenty minutes against the Waratahs, when we click, we are unstoppable.
"It is still early days, but if we can maintain that for sixty minutes a game, there are not many sides that will be able to beat us."
Crusaders: 'Not enough trust'
Tuesday 20th February 2007
Crusaders mentor Robbie Deans has highlighted the flaws in his side's performance on Saturday; flaws which ensured a shock loss against the Lions.
For Deans the biggest issue is trust.
Speaking in his column for the official Crusaders website, Deans said neither he nor assistant coach Mark Hammett could fault the players for their "effort", but that the problems lay elsewhere.
"Our biggest issue in Johannesburg was that we didn't show enough trust either in each other, or in the method that we have worked at on the training paddock.
"Too often when challenged, we acted as individuals, and got away from the structures and patterns that we have put in place.
"The game became an arm wrestle, and that was a contest the Lions were ultimately just that little bit more accurate in, as evidenced by the outcome."
But Deans has not become Super rugby's most successful coach by dwelling on past failures.
"Now is not the time to sit around feeling sorry for ourselves. We must - and will - absorb the lessons of that performance and move on."
And he intends to apply those lessons into the preparations for their crucial fixture this Saturday, when they clash with the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
"While it is easy enough to talk about what went wrong, correcting the failings is another matter. Anyone can talk, but being a Crusader is about doing: our actions and attitude are going to be critical this week.
"The key for us going forward is to match our endeavour with a lot more composure and collective energy.
"By that, I mean showing a greater level of trust, both in the match plan we assemble before the game, and in our team-mates, to execute their roles within the overall strategy correctly."
Deans is under no illusions as to the stern challenge posed by the rising force of the Cheetahs franchise.
"If anything, the Cheetahs pose even more of a threat across the park than the Lions did.
"Rassie Erasmus, their coach, is a creative thinker. It has already been apparent after just three games, that his side plays with a lot more width than do most of the other South African teams.
"Not only do they use the full space of the field with which to function rather than limiting themselves to a narrow channel of attack, they are also prepared to launch from anywhere on the field, backing their ability to play an expansive game.
"This approach possibly reflects, not only Erasmus's skills as a coach, but also the confidence that has built up within the Cheetahs group as a result of the domestic success they have enjoyed in the last few seasons."
Deans is impressed with the progress of the Cheetahs since their return to Super rugby in 2006.
"Last year the Cheetahs took a very physical approach to their game and proved competitive in every match.
"Quite clearly they have since moved on from that point, raising the bar significantly on the back of the confidence they have gained."
Bloemfontein holds many happy memories for Deans and his coaching staff; memories that they will personally carry into Saturday's fixture. In 1997, the Crusaders won their first ever away win in Super rugby in Bloemfontein. Deans managed that Crusaders side, whilst fellow coaches Mark Hammett and Todd Blackadder were playing in the 16-11 victory over Free State.
Deans believes the ingredients that went into that historic victory are the same that will be required on the weekend.
"While the game has changed dramatically in the 10 seasons that have passed since, the core dynamics required for success are still the same as they always were.
"It was about attitude in 1997, and that will be the same requirement a decade on if the Crusaders are to again 'enjoy' the Bloemfontein hospitality."
War of attrition awaits
Wednesday 21 February 2007
Kabamba Floors expects a grinding battle amongst the forwards when the Cheetahs host the Crusaders this Saturday.
The champs come into this fixture on the back of a 9-3 loss to the Lions, while the Cheetahs are riding high after a four-try win over the Waratahs. The home side are looking powerful in the forwards, and coach Rassie Erasmus is unlikely to break from a winning strategy this weekend.
“We just need to ensure we keep cleaning out around the rucks, which allows us to get a lot of quick ball,” Floors told Keo.co.za. “This has been one of the strongest aspects of our game.
“We also have to be careful we don’t surrender possession because they are a very dangerous side who love to counterattack.”
The Crusaders are a threat if given space to run, but are equally dangerous when effecting the pick and go. The Lions were guilty of allowing them too much possession last week, and if the Cheetahs are going to seize the early momentum, they have to control the ball.
“I think we will try and keep it tight for the first 40 minutes and open up later in the second half,” said Floors. “It’s been very hot in Bloemfontein lately and we will try and strike when they are tiring in the latter stages of the game.
“The forwards have picked up plenty of confidence in the last three weeks, but we are still hoping to build on our past performances and go one step better. Keeping it close to the rucks and driving off the lineouts should once again be our strengths.”
Should the Cheetahs stick with a tighter approach, Floors may only be used in the final quarter when he can put pay to tired Crusaders legs. However, this call cannot be made with any certainty, as Erasmus started Floors in the searing heat of Kimberley last week instead of playing him off the bench.
With Darron Nel doubtful to feature, either Hendro Scholtz or Ryno van der Merwe will return to the back row. As mentioned by Floors, the breakdown battle will be significant, not so much for affecting turnovers, but ensuring the Cheetahs backs receive quality ball.
By Jon Cardinelli
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