After six games in the Guinness Pro14, the Toyota Cheetahs have not quite lived up to the expectations that were created due to their stellar debut season in the competition.
The loss of some sixteen experienced players following their previous campaign has put the Cheetahs on the back foot from the word go and it was always going to be a matter of time for the team to settle.
Since the heavy 38-0 defeat to Munster at Thomond Park in their opening match of the tournament, there has been a marked improvement in the Cheetahs performance, and one does get the feeling that it will only be a matter of time before they record their first victory.
It is easy to forget that four of the Cheetahs’ first six games in the 2018/19 campaign was on the road with matches in Limerick, Swansea, Cardiff, and Edinburgh. By the same token, they tackled two of the best teams in Europe at home, in the form of the Glasgow Warriors and Ulster.
When one reads the statistics after six rounds, there are some really positive signs for the Cheetahs.
The exciting centre, Nico Lee, is one of the standout players in the tournament and find himself among the top-five players in three categories.
Lee is currently the leading defender in the Pro14, with 85 completed tackles. This is eight ahead of this closest challenger, Bobby de Wee, of the Southern Kings. Lee ranks third in the carries, with 69, and one ahead of the Springbok flank, Marcell Coetzee of Ulster.
Lee and Coetzee are in joint fourth in the offloads department with a total of eight apiece. Lee’s midfield partner, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, is hot on their heels with six off-loads of his own.
The Cheetahs winger, Rabs Maxwane, has also already impressed in the tournament and is highly rated in Europe. Maxwane has already crossed the try-line on five occasions this season to top that standings as the leading try-scorer. Apart from scoring himself, the player with blistering pace has also been instrumental in numerous tries by his teammates.
Maxwane shares the top spot in clean breaks along with Jason Harries of the Cardiff Blues, with ten apiece, one ahead of the Cheetahs fullback, Malcolm Jaer. Maxwane rates in the top 10 with metres made, with a total of 331m, and trails Jaer, who has gained a total of 363m.
Maxwane and Janse van Rensburg ranked among the players that have beaten the most defenders as well.
Janse van Rensburg, Gerhard Olivier, Junior Pokomela and Ox Nche, all rank in the most turnovers won. While Pokomela, is the joint second leading lineout stealer, and the 2,09m tall JP du Preez also ranks in the top 10.
The Cheetahs’ next game in the Pro14 will be on 27 October when they entertain the Cardiff Blues at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein. – MORGAN PIEK