The Toyota Cheetahs begun with their preparation on Wednesday for next week’s big and all important Guinness Pro14 game against the Cardiff Blues.
This game could determine which of the two teams will claim a spot in the play-offs. With the Cheetahs being five points ahead of the Welsh outfit in Conference A, they are in a better position to advance to the next round.
The Springbok scrumhalf, Rudy Paige, reported for training for the first time and the impact of his experience was visible.
“I’m obviously excited to see different faces and a different way of playing rugby,” Paige told Courant.
“It’s a different way of doing things here. Someone once told me that a change is as good as a holiday, so I must say that I have been enjoying my two weeks thus far in Bloemfontein.”
Paige joined the Cheetahs after playing for the Bulls for the majority of his career and he agreed that the side from the Free State’s famous brand of rugby is perhaps better suited to his style of rugby.
“That’s why I made the decision to come to Bloemfontein. I would like to fit in to the way that they play. I know how though they are to play against from my previous experience against them.
“For me it is exciting times, but for now it is just to fit in and see how the system works, to try and get to know everyone and just do my part as a team player.”
Paige is without a doubt one of the most criticised players in South African rugby over the past few years, and to a large extent unfairly so.
Paige joined the Cheetahs from a system at the Bulls and the Springboks that simply did not work, and one merely has to take a look at the results to realise this.
The Director of Rugby at the Cheetahs, Franco Smith, has previously made mention of this as well, and to him it’s also about giving a player another chance at doing what he does best.
Paige added that to him is not about proving the critics wrong, but more so about reigniting his career as a rugby player.
“At the moment it just about controlling the controllables. What has happened to me in the past and my circumstances was nothing that I could control.
“What I can control is how I prepare, how I work and how I settle in at the Cheetahs.
“As for the critics go, I am not here to prove them wrong. I’m here to enjoy my rugby and I’m here to revive my career.”
It remains to be seen if Paige will play next week, but there should be no reason why he cannot.
Next week Saturday’s game between the Cheetahs and Cardiff Blues at the Toyota Stadium kicks off at 15:00. – MORGAN PIEK