Taking on the in-form Lions in their own lair is a huge challenge, but the Free State Cheetahs are confident they can end their own recent poor form when the two teams go head-to-head in a Currie Cup Round Nine encounter on Friday.
Jan De Koning writes for Rugby 365 that Cheetahs flyhalf Chris Rossouw, the Springbok No.10 who arrived in Bloemfontein this year after a stint in France, is the first to acknowledge the enormity of the challenge facing the defending champions as they travel to Johannesburg.
“They [the Lions] are the team with the top form at present,” Rossouw told rugby365.com in an interview.
He made reference to the Lions’ recent victories over both Western Province and the Blue Bulls, a fortnight during which the Cheetahs struggled to overcome the Boland Cavaliers and Griquas.
“We are disappointed with the quality of our play in the last two games,” he said of a 15-10 win over Boland and a slightly more convincing 22-3 win over Griquas.
Rossouw felt that the Cheetahs would have to make a huge step up from their recent games to overcome the in-form Lions.
“We know it will be a tall order to go beat them in Johannesburg, but the guys are focussed and excited about the challenge,” the flyhalf told this website.
Rossouw felt there will be another key factor at play on Friday – the Lions’ fighting spirit.
“It is a home game for the Lions and they always play well in Johannesburg,” he said, adding: “Even when they struggled in the Super 14, they managed to do well against some big name teams at home and it [their fighting spirit] is a factor, they just don’t give up.”
Rossouw also spoke about his personal journey, which took him from Western Province to Toulon in France (he moved there in 2005) and back to South Africa, where he joined the Cheetahs this year.
“I enjoyed my time abroad,” he said of his stay in Toulon.
But it is being back on South African soil that transformed him into a match-winning pivot again.
“It is very pleasant here [in Bloemfontein] and I enjoy the way they do things in a laid-back-serious manner,” he said, adding that his family is one of the reasons he decided to return.
His wife had a second baby girl a week ago, Mila, with their first born, Nina, set to turn three in October.
“I thought I would finish [my career] there [in France],” he said, adding: “It was a privilege to have the opportunity to play abroad and this [being back in South Africa] is like a second life for me.
“It is a joy to play with some super young talent [in Bloemfontein], and once they gain enough experience this team will be so much better,” he said of the Cheetahs team.
The 31-year-old Rossouw, once said to be the answer to the Springboks’ seemingly endless flyhalf woes, went on the 2000 tour to Argentina, Ireland, Wales and England.
He played in four matches, none of them Tests.
In all he has now played nearly 200 first class matches – at his best a creative player of unpredictable genius.
No, a far more mature player than the one that left in 2005, Rossouw has replaced his often erratic displays with a more mature game.Tweet