The Cheetahs beat Griquas 57-7 in a pre-season warm-up match at Grey College in Bloemfontein on Friday night and while the score was impressive, it was largely academic.
But head coach Naka Drotske believes the exercise was not futile. Who is he kidding?
Petros Augousti writes for The Times Online that instead of banging heads against the likes of the Sharks, as they had planned in Abu Dhabi, or even going the Stormers’ route of taking on a full- strength Saracens team, they opted for a low-key, low-risk match against weak opposition.
Unfortunately for Drotske, this basically sums up the Cheetahs of 2009. They cancelled the Sharks friendly due to insufficient funds, and it is probably this reason that the team assembled to do duty in the toughest competition in the world is not up to standard.
This is not Drotske’s fault. The Cheetahs have endured injury-enforced retirements to key personnel, they have lost their brightest prospect in Duanne Vermuelen to the Stormers and, quite frankly, the union has let him down with their recruitment policy.
Drotske does not dwell on the negatives. “I am positive, a lot of good things came out of this match against Griquas. We did not finish as well as we could have but overall I am happy.”
The eternal optimist was at it again when peppered with questions of the squad’s lack of depth in key positions. “I don’t see a problem in the tight five, if you look back on the past few seasons you can see that we have been in the top four or five when it comes to scrums and lineouts, and I expect it will be the same this year.”
What he fails to mention is that a few no-names from Griquas pushed his first-choice pack around on Friday and disrupted quality lineout possession with ease. And the fact that injuries and retirements have left his engine room looking more lean than mean.
Recently retired lock Barend Pieterse has been roped in as a lineout consultant, and he too was in good spirits despite the glaring lack of experience in the tight five. “I’m not worried about the depth. We may have youngsters but they have come through the age-group system and we will be competitive come scrum and lineout time.
“Overall our locks have had some Currie Cup and a few Super 14 games under their belt so they do have some experience,” he said.
Hardly ideal for the Super 14 though, is it?
The Cheetahs mowed down a weak Griquas team thanks largely to a decent performance by their backs, with new winger Danwel Demas dotting down a brace.
But when your star acquisitions include a pair of Sevens exponents in Demas and Fabien Juries and discarded Stormers centre Corne Uys, then you must know that you will not be on an even playing field when the competition kicks off.
How can you be? Tough times ahead for the Cheetahs, but Drotske is unfazed: “We need to beat the Lions in our first match, then win two overseas and when we come back we have six home games on the trot.”Tweet