Cheetahs start with a bang

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Hencus van Wyk PHOTO: MORGAN PIEK

The mood in the Toyota Cheetahs camp is upbeat ahead of their Toyota Challenge match against Emerging Ireland in Bloemfontein on Sunday.

On Friday, the Cheetahs kicked off their season on a high note with a scrappy, but hard-fought 17-14 win over the Bulls XV in Bloemfontein. While the Bulls didn’t bring their strongest possible team for the game as they played against Connacht in the United Rugby Championship at Loftus Versfeld later in the evening, it was still loaded from the Jacaranda City and they featured the likes of the Springboks Morné Steyn and Bismarck du Plessis.

Both teams certainly let scoring opportunities slip through their fingers, while the tighthead prop, Hencus van Wyk of the Cheetahs, and Chris Smit of the Bulls (formerly of the Cheetahs), both had tries disallowed following TMO reviews. Smit was unfortunate to have knocked himself out in the process of his disallowed try and was taken from the field with a concussion.

For the Cheetahs it was pleasing that they were able to start with a win, and this has gone a long way in burying the ghosts of their infamous Currie Cup semi-final defeat to the eventual champions, the Pumas.

While the Cheetahs were happy with their start, the new captain Victor Sekekete told Bloemfontein Courant that their defense is still an aspect of the game that needs some attention going forward.

“I felt that my first game as the captain was really good,” said the player who was also named as the Man of the Match. “To say that I’m proud is an understatement. It felt good because I had the backing of the coaches and the players. We gelled together and it showed throughout the good week of training.

“When it comes to improving – it will be discipline. We can focus more on the discipline. Giving away penalties cost us a little bit and it made the game even more difficult for us.”

This week the Cheetahs will come up against an impressive looking Emerging Irish side, who easily beat the Griquas 54-7. There is a strong possibility that the Springbok, Frans Steyn, could be in action for the Cheetahs this week after being rested following his duty with the national team.

The Cheetahs coach, Hawies Fourie, will only name his side for the match at 10:00 on Friday morning, but there may be some changes to the side, such as Ruan Pienaar returning to a starting role, while as mentioned Steyn could play. A change at flank is also on the cards after Roelof Smit injured his shoulder on debut.

Sunday afternoon’s match at the Toyota Stadium will kick off at 15:00. – MORGAN PIEK