Lions loss means little to Cheetahs
Toyota Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske was a disappointed man after last weekend’s result against the MTN Lions, but has moved to remind fans that pre-season games count for little in the bigger scope of things.
It is understandable that Drotske wouldn’t have been happy with the first hit-out of the season. Although missing several regulars, his Cheetahs side capitulated in the second half to go down 33-17 to an equally young and inexperienced Lions side, one that had a lot more to play for.
Still, while there are those who are willing to write off the Cheetahs' chances in this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby competition before it begins, Drotske is keen to remind them that the starting squad will have a very different look to it when the competition begins.
For one, even though he is set to name a stronger team in this weekend’s so-called “Reconciliation Cup” friendly against the Stormers, two of his kingpins – flanker Heinrich Brussow and flyhalf Johan Goosen – are both only likely to take the field in Polokwane a week later when the final pre-season game arrives against the Vodacom Bulls.
“People read too much into that scoreline,” Drotske told supersport.com, “There were two intercept tries, and one chip and chase try. There were nine new players making their debuts for the team and this is the only way we will know how good they are – by giving them game time.
“A lot of players were second choice players, there were a lot of young players in the squad and we gave a lot of unnecessary points away in the match. We know who our first choice players are, and in a lot of cases the team there was No 2 playing. Some of them have disappointed us, and have moved from two to three in the pecking order.”
Drotske said while the mistakes were lamentable, he wasn’t about to throw his toys out of the cot over them.
“Take the one try – it came from an intercept pass from Piet van Zyl. Now I know what I have in a player like him and just because it came from his pass doesn’t mean I rate him less. There were players who didn’t use the chances afforded to them and a few players who disappointed me with their workrate on the field.
“But this is precisely the arena we need to test these players. The players who play against the Stormers this weekend – if they make it, I know they will make it anywhere in Super Rugby because the Stormers are a top team.
“I’d rather have that than two friendlies against weak teams that you win by 50 points and that mean little in testing your strength.”
Drotske will name his team on Wednesday, but sees the return of a number of first choice players – including captain Adriaan Strauss and stalwart Bok Juan Smith – on the cards.
“This weekend most of the positions will be filled with first choice players. Players like Adriaan Strauss, Frans Viljoen, Juan Smith, Devon Raubenheimer, Phillip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne are all back.”
In the backline the Cheetahs are set to bring back playmakers Johann Sadie and Willie le Roux while former Lion Jannie Boshoff is also likely to get a run.
But while the games do mean little in the bigger picture, Drotske will be looking for a better performance from the side, especially if they want to take some confidence into the opening fixture of the 2013 season.