The Cheetahs are a recharged and focused unit after their week-long break courtesy of a bye, and will be fancying their chances against the Hurricanes in Kimberley on Saturday.
Phil Coetzer of Rugby 365 reports that, that’s the word from young flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter ahead of the Cheetahs next Super 14 clash against the dangerous New Zealand outfit.
That match will be the second of the ‘Canes’ tour of South Africa, after they succumbed 12-20 to the Stormers at Newlands last Saturday. This defeat sent them crashing down from fourth position to sixth in the log standings, with the Stormers replacing them in fourth spot.
In an exclusively interview with rugby365, Potgieter revealed that he and his Cheetahs teammates enjoyed a constructive break over the past week or so, and were preparing for a bruising clash.
“I think this week off was just the right tonic for us,” said Potgieter before a training session on Tuesday. “We managed to recover a bit from the bumps and bruises, and had time to clear our heads.
“Also, a guy like CJ [van der Linde], who had a few aches and pains, is back in the fray. So it was a good week, and I think we got [the bye] at just at the right time.”
The sturdy pivot moved to the Cheetahs from the Bulls, where he played for most of his career thus far. Potgieter was born and bred in Pretoria, attending Affies High School where he made the Blue Bulls Craven Week team in 2002, before moving on to represent the Leopards and then the Blue Bulls at Under-20 and later Vodacom Cup level.
Potgieter also made the Bulls Super 14 squad last year, but never got onto the field. He also previously played for South Africa at Under-19 and Under-21 level.
So did the move from Pretoria to Bloemfontein bother Potgieter at all? Clearly not, he explained.
“Traditionally the Cheetahs are a team that like to give the ball a bit more air than the Bulls, and that is something that has suited me quite well. I like to pass the ball and attack. The Bulls traditionally play a very one-dimensional game,” said Potgieter.
“When I came here, I had the opportunity of getting the backline going, and playing a passing game, so it was great for me. In that respect, it was a real pleasure for me to come here.”
The flyhalf has had to learn the tricks of the trade very quickly in his first full Super 14 season. Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské chose Potgieter as his first-choice No.10 in the absence of stalwart Willem de Waal, who left for European pastures after last year’s Currie Cup.
The fact that Drotské preferred Potgieter ahead of the experienced Conrad Barnard spoke volumes about his belief in the 23-year-old’s abilities.
“You know, initially it was quite difficult for me [in the Super 14]. But by the second and third game, once you’re in the thick of the action, you become more at ease with things.
“I never really understood why everybody said the Super 14 is the toughest competition in the world, but now I understand exactly what they are talking about.
“As soon as you concede a turnover, you might as well go stand behind your own posts – that’s how quick things can change,” he joked.
Potgieter also added that things can change very quickly in the competition, and related his recent experiences.
“The biggest eye-opener I’ve had in the Super 14 probably occurred when we played against the Stormers.
“There we were, in the middle of a packed Newlands, with the whole crowd against us. We dropped one ball, and they managed to turn it over quickly and score a try against us. On top of that, I also managed to kick the restart directly into touch.
“The amount of pressure that we experienced in that four minutes out of the eighty, made me realise that you really have to restrict your errors to the absolute minimum, otherwise you’ll be taking a beating every weekend,” the playmaker revealed.
Rumours and reports have been doing the rounds about other South African unions and overseas teams sniffing around to try and lure many of the Cheetahs staff and players away from Bloemfontein.
It is feasible that such gossip can become a disruptive force for a team, but Potgieter feels that it is useless devoting time and effort to things that might or might not occur in the distant future.
“I think most of our guys have made peace with the fact that if anything happens, it will only happen after the season. So to start worrying now about something that will only happen in a month, or three, or five, is simply a waste of energy,” he said.
“All we want to do right now is play rugby. We are the Currie Cup champions, and if anything happens, it will only be after the Currie Cup season.
“Every guy has to live his life the way that’s best for him, so for me those worries are for later. For now we are a unit, and we’re only interested in playing for each other.”
The Cheetahs will now face a Hurricanes team that has been on the charge during the middle part of the season, and will be itching to get back into play-off contention after losing to the Stormers last weekend.
But Potgieter is bullish about the Cheetahs chances in the match, and he will be going all out to do the Sharks and the Cheetahs a favour on Saturday.
“That Hurricanes team is great when they click, but when they don’t, they can be one of the worst in the competition.
“To stop them from gelling, you have to put pressure on them. I think if we put enough pressure on them, who knows. We’re playing in Kimberley, and I don’t think a lot of teams enjoy playing there.
“If we’re in their faces all the time, we could stop them from clicking. That’s what the Stormers did – they were constantly in their faces.
“I think our guys can learn a great lesson from that,” the flyhalf concluded.Tweet