The men from Bloemfontein, after reaching the play-offs for the first time in 2013, are currently propping up the table – with just one win (15-9 against the Bulls in monsoon-like conditions) from five starts. However, it is their three-match losing streak on tour in Australasia – where they have conceded an astonishingly 138 points and leaked 19 tries at an average of just over six tries per match – that showed up the biggest decline in their make-up, defence.
At the heart of last year’s success was improved defence and conversely that is their biggest weakness in 2014. They have a tackle success rate of just 86.6 percent this season, which dropped to 85 percent in the demoralising 27-60 loss to the Hurricanes last week – where they slipped 31 tackles. Backline coach Hawies Fourie feels that both on defence and attack the Cheetahs have simply not been good enough this season. He spoke of turning over too much possession, but felt the real problem is in their disjointed approach on defence.
“This [past] weekend we retained the ball better against the Hurricanes in the first half, but after the break we again conceded turnovers too easily,” Fourie told this website in an interview ahead of their final tour match – against the Blues in Auckland on Saturday. However, a far bigger issue for Fourie is that he feels on defence everybody are simply not on the same wavelength all the time. “It doesn’t help when players are under pressure and every player is trying to do his own thing,” he told this website.
“You have to work as a team [unit] on defence, work with the guys next to you in units of three. “It is vital that we get on the same wavelength. “We worked hard on that [aspect] last week and again this week, so we hope it will improve dramatically [against the Blues] on Saturday.”
By Jan de Koning