Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Cheetahs prepared for massive Challenge Cup clash with Toulon

The Cheetahs suffered a big blow to their hopes of progressing with the injury to Springbok star Frans Steyn.

The Cheetahs are as primed and ready as they could ever be for their massive Challenge Cup clash against French giants Toulon at the Stade Felix Mayol in France on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 1:30pm).

The Cheetahs edged their way into the Challenge Cup knockouts with a 9-6 win over Pau in January, and were rewarded with a last 16 meeting with three time Champions Cup winners Toulon.

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It is a monumental challenge, but one that they have been preparing hard for and coach Hawies Fourie believes they are ready for it.

“I have watched their last three games and one they played against Pau earlier in the season. Just to get a feeling of how strong they are,” explained Fourie.

“They have a quality team and it is going to be a big ask. They are a much tougher opposition than Pau and the Scarlets (pool stage ooponents). So we have braced ourselves for that. We are well prepared and we are going to give everything we have got.”

The deal that saw the Cheetahs invited to the Challenge Cup as an invitational side meant that they had to play all of their pool stage games in Italy where they were based, with Fourie admitting that has prepared them for what to expect in Europe.

The Cheetahs have also importantly been playing in the Currie Cup over the past few weeks, meaning that their players have been getting in valuable game time, even though the step up between the competitions is huge.

“We are used to playing away now and are able to adapt to the conditions quickly. It’s still cold here but the forecast on Saturday is no rain and about 17 to 18 degrees but with a very strong wind. So we will have to adapt quickly to that,” said Fourie.

“These last three weeks have been important for us. We have been able to get some good game time into the players. “We have had better preparation than we did for the Challenge Cup games in December and January, so hopefully we will reap the rewards on Saturday.”

Big blow

The Cheetahs suffered a big blow to their hopes of progressing with the injury to Springbok star Frans Steyn, that ruled him out of this weekend’s clash, but Fourie believes his team can overcome that hurdle.

“Obviously if you lose a guy of Frans’ calibre it will have an effect. Especially with his kicking game, which along with Ruan (Pienaar’s), is one of our big strengths. We also have a good kick chase which is part of our game and how we wanted to play,” said Fourie.

“But we have had to plan accordingly and make some other plans with Rynhardt Fortuin and Tapiwa Mafura, and they will have the responsibility of the kicking game along with Ruan. So hopefully it will still go well.

“But we have already played this season without Frans and Ruan in our games against Pau and Scarlets in January and managed to get through them. So the guys have got the confidence to do it without them, even though we will definitely miss him.”

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Challenge Cup Cheetahs rugby team Hawies Fourie