The Cheetahs have set their sights on another win over newly crowned Super Rugby Unlocked champions the Bulls, as the title holders attempt to challenge the in-form side for top spot in the Currie Cup.
The Cheetahs recorded a 28-9 victory against Griquas at the weekend to finish fourth in the Super Rugby Unlocked standings.
Holding 17 points, they were six points behind the Blue Bulls (23) and two behind Western Province and the Sharks (both 19), with log points being carried over to the Currie Cup.
As the only team to have beaten the Bulls in the Unlocked competition, Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie believed they would start the Currie Cup with a handicap because they were facing a tough away game against the Blue Bulls after a first-round bye.
“I think to end above the Bulls we have to win our game against them at Loftus,” Fourie said.
“When we get closer to a possible semifinal spot we will have a clearer picture on what we need to do to possibly secure a home semifinal and hopefully also a final.”
As defending Currie Cup champions, Fourie stressed it was vital to get home ground advantage in the playoffs, and in order to do that they needed to clear a few hurdles.
“We are probably going to have to play a bit of catch-up as we are six points behind the Bulls and we ideally want to close that gap,” he said.
“The Bulls didn’t get a bonus point against the Pumas (on Saturday), while our point will be important.”
Every match would be crucial from the start, Fourie felt, in a full-strength Currie Cup.
“We have six games to close that gap and for us it’s important to take it step by step,” he said.
“If we don’t get the win at Loftus after our bye we will have more than 10 points to catch up and I can’t t see that the Bulls will lose more than two matches.”
Their first-round bye was not perfectly timed, Fourie admitted, and if they got to the final it would require an eight-week stretch of competition.
“Byes can also impact you, as we saw with the Bulls (in the Super Rugby Unlocked competition) and also us against the Sharks.”