FS Cheetahs start afresh before semis

The prop, Ox Nche, who has been the Toyota Free State Cheetahs' stand-out player this season, will have his work cut out for his match against the Golden Lions, with the set-piece going to be vital during the semi-final. PHOTO: NICOLETTE TALJAARD

The Toyota Free State Cheetahs want to start afresh this week with their sights set on the Golden Lions in the Currie Cup semi-finals next week.

The defending champions, the Lions, secured their spot in the knockout round of the world’s toughest domestic competition with a hard fought 28-16 win over the Sharks on Friday.
The Cheetahs in their turn, beat the Griquas 63-26 in the derby in a match they, by their own admission, want to forget as soon as possible.

While the Cheetahs are the only unbeaten team in the competition, coach Franco Smith says it means nothing, going to the knockout phase of the competition.

“No, it’s not going to increase the pressure on us,” he said.

“It all depends on how much we as a team read into it and the answer is: nothing. It’s great, we play rugby to win, but there’s enough experience here and I have enough experience not to fall into that trap.

“We’re not going to place more pressure on ourselves. From Monday it’s a fresh start. Johan Ackermann also said it’s a level playing field now, it’s nil-nil, they are one-off games, and so it won’t have an influence.”

The Cheetahs should be boosted with the return of Sergeal Petersen for the knockout match after struggling with an injury ahead of the match against the Griquas. It’s not expected that Lood de Jager will be available for the side, but Oupa Mohoje might be.

The Lions will only have three of their Springboks available for the match, with most of them heading east to play for their Japanese clubs. At this stage their only Springboks available for selection will be Faf de Klerk, Malcolm Marx and Julian Redelinghuys.

The Cheetahs will face the Lions on Saturday 15 October at 15:00 at the Toyota Stadium in the City of Roses. At 18:00 the Blue Bulls will host Western Province at Loftus Versfeld in the second semi-final. – MORGAN PIEK