Bulls will get no respect - Naka
Toyota Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske has sent out a clear warning to the Vodacom Bulls ahead of this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby showdown in Bloemfontein – don’t expect any respect from the hosts.
With the two teams clashing in the top of the log game in the South African conference, a victory for either side would go a long way to staking a massive claim for the conference title and with it the spoils of a home playoff game, something which is massive with the way the playoff system is lopsided in favour of home teams.
But with the Bulls unbeaten in their last six games, and brimming with confidence after a win in Durban against the Sharks, the Cheetahs know they need to up the ante in order to upset the three-time champions.
One of those ways, according to Drotske, is to ensure his team “shows no respect” to the Bulls when they get out onto the park, and to remind the visitors that they are on foreign soil when the game starts.
The Cheetahs lost in the first game between the two sides 26-20 at Loftus Versfeld, and Drotske is looking to reverse that result as his side continue to impress and enjoy their best season ever in Super Rugby.
Drotske said he had told his team that the Bulls should be shown no respect when they get to the Free State Stadium.
“We didn’t lose at Loftus because we gave them too much respect. They are a good team and you have to play them well tactically. We discussed it this morning and we decided we shouldn’t give them any respect,” Drotske said.
“Both teams have nine wins in the competition. They’ve got a few world class players and so do we. They’ve got a few up and coming young players who will play for South Africa and we do as well. There is no reason to give them too much respect, we’re playing in Bloem. And in Bloemfontein we back ourselves against any team.
“We’ve beaten many big teams in Bloemfontein in the past. So, no we won’t give them too much respect. But they are playing clever rugby and we will have to match that.”
The Cheetahs know that the history books favour the Bulls and in the 11 games between them since 2006 at this level the Cheetahs have never beaten the Pretoria side.
But that means nothing to this team, he reiterated, and if the Bulls want to continue that trend they will have a fight on their hands. This season the Cheetahs have broken so many ducks that the historical contest means very little to the side ahead of this game.
“It’s our season for firsts. We had never beaten the Stormers before this year, we had never won three games on tour and we have never been fourth on the log before,” Drotske explained.
“The players have the confidence, but in my opinion the history between teams doesn’t play any part in the game. If you take the Rebels, they had not beaten a South African team in 13 matches and then they beat the Stormers. Rugby is a funny game and in this competition there are surprises.”
While the game is the undoubted big match-up of the weekend, and will settle the power struggle in the South African conference, the Cheetahs have already come a long way this season and are currently enjoying being talked about as playoff hopefuls with just a few games of league play left.
There is no secret how the Bulls play, and the Cheetahs know that all too well. Respect is one thing, but they will have to play smart rugby in the right areas to do that.