Cheetahs head coach Hawies Fourie is ready for the biggest game of his coaching career as his team take on the Pumas for the Currie Cup title on Saturday afternoon. Fourie has been a rugby coach for over two decades now, but this will be his first appearance in the Currie Cup final as a head coach and he is relishing the opportunity. ALSO READ: Currie Cup final - All the team news, information for the big day Previously Fourie has been in two Currie Cup finals with the Cheetahs, in 2007 and 2009, but on both of those occasions…
Cheetahs head coach Hawies Fourie is ready for the biggest game of his coaching career as his team take on the Pumas for the Currie Cup title on Saturday afternoon.
Fourie has been a rugby coach for over two decades now, but this will be his first appearance in the Currie Cup final as a head coach and he is relishing the opportunity.
ALSO READ: Currie Cup final – All the team news, information for the big day
Previously Fourie has been in two Currie Cup finals with the Cheetahs, in 2007 and 2009, but on both of those occasions he was backline coach.
The last time the Bloemfontein-based side won the tournament, in 2019, current Glasgow Warriors head coach Franco Smith was in charge, with Fourie taking over the reins after Smith’s departure.
“I think this is the biggest game that I have been a part of (as head coach). The previous Currie Cup finals that I was involved in were in 2007 and 2009, and we won the 2007 Currie Cup when Naka Drotske was head coach,” said Fourie.
“Since then I have always aspired to be a head coach in a Currie Cup final and I finally have my chance. So this is the biggest game that I‘ve been involved in as a head coach. I am looking forward to it and making the most of the opportunity.”
Against the grain
The Cheetahs have been fighting against the grain over a number of years now, since losing their place in international franchise rugby, but have been steadily building their team back up and making statements on the local front over the past few years.
Their performances against the Bulls over the past two weekends, with them beating them in Pretoria and then thumping them in the semi-final in Bloemfontein, were big statements as in both games they came up against a side full of United Rugby Championship stars.
“The Bulls team that we played last week was a full URC team. They selected the best 23 guys they had available. The previous week Morne Steyn, who is a legend, was given a big send off and we still managed to beat them in Pretoria as well,” explained Fourie.
“That shows that we are good enough to challenge them up there as well. We must take into consideration that the Bulls have had a long season, playing in three different competitions. So I can understand that they were mentally fragile.
“But it was still a very good team full of quality players and we came out on top. It was a big statement from us.”
Fourie continued: “We have been fighting against the odds for many years in the Free State. Since 2016 when we were kicked out of Super Rugby and in 2019 when we were kicked out of Pro (URC) rugby. It is tough to swallow that and still compete at a high level.
“So it says a lot about the leadership at the union and everyone involved that we are against the tide but we still fight and punch above our weight.”
The Cheetahs did get their first taste of international franchise rugby again this season after they took part in the Challenge Cup competition as an invitational team and with two slots available for the coming season they are hoping to be involved once again.
“We really hope that we will be one of those two (invitational) teams in the Challenge Cup. I feel we performed well enough against top teams like Scarlets, Pau and Toulon,” said Fourie.
“We proved that we are competitive enough and have enough quality and depth in our system to compete at that level. So we are holding thumbs that we will be one of those two teams.
“Playing in the (Challenge Cup) competition helped us immensely (this season). Playing two games in December and another two in January really helped our preparation for the Currie Cup. The guys were sharp when we started the Currie Cup.
“We knew if we qualified for the (Challenge Cup) round of 16 we would have to play two games on the same day, one in Bloem and one in France. So it was important for us to start the Currie Cup well and get 15 points on the log from the first three games, which we managed to do.”
The team has been boosted recently by former Springbok Ruan Pienaar extending his contract with the union for another year, with him set to end his career next season at the age of 40.
“Ruan is extremely valuable to us. Not just as a player but as a person off the field as well. He is an example to all the players. His work ethic is amazing and he is a big family man which is our moto. So everything we do and how we do things is the way he is living his life,” said Fourie.
“When I offered him the contract he asked me if I thought he was still good enough to play, and said if we were 100% confident that he is good enough then he would be willing to extend.
“He is a quality person and a good leader and an example to everyone that is in the union. So we are all glad that he decided to extend and has another year in him.”