/ 25 October 2007

Cheetahs set for forward tussle

With five forwards and only two backs on the bench, it does not take a rocket scientist to predict that the Cheetahs will play it mostly tight in Saturday’s Absa Currie Cup final against the Lions in Bloemfontein.

And the Lions are aware of it.

”They will probably try and make a statement with their forwards, but we’ll just play our own game,” said Lions coach Eugene Eloff.

”I don’t believe in changing something that works. We won’t deviate from our pattern of recent weeks, although we have contingency plans in place to change our game if needed,” he said.

Both sides have devastating runners behind the scrum. The Cheetahs, however, also have the huge left boot of flyhalf Willem de Waal to keep them in the Lions’ territory and to supplement their forwards. And of course, De Waal’s lethal boot could keep the scoreboard ticking if the Lions let their discipline slip.

There is no doubt that they will use De Waal to good effect, and also try and smother the Lions backs by denying them good, and especially, fast ball. This will certainly be the case in the first ruck after tight phases, where the Lions specialise in upsetting the rhythm of the opposition if they have possession, or take it wide if they are in possession themselves.

However, the Lions will not stand back for the Cheetahs pack. They have a pack of forwards who now can mix it with the best. Their line-outs, a little dicey last season and even earlier this year, have come on in leaps and bounds. They have one of the very best loosehead props in the country in Heinke van der Merwe, experienced Springbok Lawrence Sephaka on the other side of the scrum and the abrasive Willie Wepener at hooker between them.

They’ll hold their own in the tight phases, one feels.

It is, however, in the loose that this match could be decided.

In this facet, the Lions will rely heavily on fetcher Cobus Grobbelaar. His duel with Heinrich Brussouw and Springbok Hendro Scholtz — in his 100th match for the Cheetahs — could be one of the highlights of this final.

Finals, at whatever level, are played with a certain amount of conservatism, but the style of play and the strengths of the two sides — De Waal’s kicking aside — are such that there will probably be enough running to make this a game to remember.

It should be very close, and the quiet confidence of the Lions could be well worth a wager. — Sapa


Cheetahs: Alwyn Hollenbach; Eddie Fredericks, Marius Joubert, Hendrik Meyer, Gavin Passens; Willem de Waal, Falie Oelschich; Darron Nell, Duanne Vermeulen, Hendro Scholtz; Corniel van Zyl, Rory Duncan (captain),;Kobus Calldo, Richardt Strauss, Wian du Preez. Replacements: Jaco du Toit, Jannie du Plessis, Barend Pieterse, Heinrich Brussouw, Kabamba Floors, Tewis de Bruyn, Meyer Bosman.

Lions: Louis Ludik; Jannie Boshoff, Jaco Pretorius, Walter Venter, Ryno Benjamin; Louis Strydom, Jano Vermaak; Jacques Cronje, Ernst Joubert (captain), Cobus Grobbelaar; Franco van der Merwe, Anton van Zyl; Lawrence Sephaka, Willie Wepener, Heinke van der Merwe. Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, JC Janse van Rensburg, Cobus Grobler, Wilhelm Koch, Freddie van Zyl, Earl Rose, Wylie Human.

Kick-off: 4.30pm