Cheetahs might need to get boring to be better in Europe

The central franchise is off to a flyer in this season's Pro14 campaign, but now they embark for the heavier fields of the UK.

Sometimes, as the cliche goes, boring really is better.

As a result, the free-running Cheetahs will adopt a more measured approach on their three-match Pro14 tour starting this weekend, with incoming coach Hawies Fourie looking to be more tactically astute as they move to Northern Hemisphere conditions.

The men from Bloemfontein face Irish side Connacht in their first tour game on Saturday, Fourie’s first game in charge.

He has a tough task blending his own coaching style with the free-flowing style that saw the Cheetahs romp to the Currie Cup title under Franco Smith and score three big victories in the opening three rounds of the competition.

And while many of their fans may expect them to continue turning on the style, Fourie believes they need to box clever if they are to be successful on the wetter, heavier fields up north.

“I’m feeling a lot better. During our first few training sessions the execution wasn’t good. Some of the players were a bit jittery. We’ve kept most of the things the same, but we did change one or two things and emphasised one or two things that they didn’t emphasise previously. Everyone is a bit jittery in how we want to play but it’s now a lot better,” he said.

“When we play in the Northern Hemisphere it is very important to have a very good kicking game, something we didn’t focus on in our home games. There we tried to run the opposition ragged and used the altitude to our advantage, but when we go over we will have to have a good kicking game, and that was the main difference in our focus from the first three games to the tour.

Head Coach of Toyota Cheetahs, Hawies Fourie during the Toyota Cheetahs media conference at Media Centre, Toyota Stadium on June 27, 2019 in Bloemfontein, South Africa. (Photo by Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images)

“The important thing for me is not to take too many chances in our own 22m area and to be organised when we want to kick. Who chases the ball and who stays behind, for instance? It was something we spent a lot of time on, but we aren’t going to be like Faf de Klerk and kick every ball we get.”

But that isn’t saying that the Cheetahs are going to abandon their free-flowing style that has won them so many plaudits thus far this season.

They simply want to be tactically smarter about it.

“We will have to adapt to the conditions,” Fourie added, “If it’s a nice clear day then we will run the ball but if it is raining and windy, then we will adapt to that, and we will have a bit more of a structured kicking game, and try and play in the opposition half and put the pressure on them. The rest of our game will stay precisely the same.”

The game will also be the last match for stalwart Ox Nche, who with flanker Henco Venter joins the Sharks next month.

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