Cheetahs captain Ruan Pienaar praised his side after they finally broke their duck against Irish side Munster on Friday night, racking up their first victory against the Irish and stopping Munster’s unbeaten run 40-16 in this year’s PRO14 Rugby Championship and against South African sides.
The Cheetahs struggled in the first half but pulled away in the second as their expansive brand of rugby spurred them on to their third victory in as many games before they head off to Europe for their next match in a fortnight.
Pienaar, who has made an immense difference to the team with his experience and is currently the general who dictates the way they play, believes the team is building something special as they continue to play with confidence and use their attacking style of rugby to take a step forward in the competition.
“Firstly this win was really important for us to build momentum from heading onto a tour and we did that well. It was a great test for us, especially with some of the situations we will face on tour,” Pienaar said.
“It is about building a winning culture and it will be a massive challenge and we know that. This team has learnt a lot and as players we have been put in difficult situations and it is about kicking on and we are embracing the challenge.”
Pienaar said it was about embracing the challenge as they now have a week off, before heading to Europe for three games under Hawies Fourie as coach. Fourie replaces Franco Smith – a change that should have happened at the beginning of the season had Fourie not had to undergo a medical procedure that delayed his arrival in Bloemfontein.
“Coach Franco said this week the four lines stay the same. We have a game plan in place and the structures are in place and we believe in that. I’m not sure how that will change in the next two weeks but we have learned a lot.
“Now it is about embracing that challenge and getting some consistency in our performances away from home.”
Pienaar praised the forward for creating the platform that allowed the backs to explode in the second half and take the game away from Munster.
“The way we play is really a team effort. Our forwards work hard and the structures are in place and give the guys the confidence to play. It is an exciting brand to play. We have players with good feet and pace but we play a 15-man brand and everyone needs to do their job for the others to shine,” he added.
“We back each other and we all work hard for each other. For us it is a team effort. It is a squad effort and there are a lot of guys who have trained but haven’t played a minute. The culture that has been created is great, and it is good for the guys to come in every day, you want to come in and that shows on the field.”
♦ In Port Elizabeth Southern Kings’ coach Robbi Kempson lamented his side’s poor start as they conceded five first half tries to slump to a 42-17 loss to Ulster, their third loss of the season.
While the young side battled back in the second half, playing catch-up was too difficult even though they had more than their fair share of chances in the second stanza.
“That first half they totally outplayed us. They played exactly the game we wanted to play in having a fast start. They capitalised on three or four errors and there were three or four tries. Defensively we had individual errors from players that didn’t help us. That is why we made the changes at half time to shore up that defensive effort,” Kempson said on the defensive effort.
Kempson did praise the substitutes that took the field after half time and their performance in the second half.
“The substitutions made a difference and from halftime on we were basically an under-23 side that was on the field and it went better. There was a lot more energy and a lot more effort and I have to give it to the side which played in the second half. We showed what we can do if we are given the opportunity and the players go out there and produce the goods.
“Certainly there were no harsh words at half time. You have to keep the players as calm as possible especially when you are on the back foot as we were at the end of the first half.”
Both sides now have a week off before they head to Europe for a batch of three away games.
Cheetahs 40 Munster 16
Toyota Free State Cheetahs – tries: Ox Nche, Junior Pokomela, William Small-Smith, Joseph Dweba, Jasper Wiese, Rhyno Smith. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (4), Tian Schoeman.
Munster – tries: Dan Goggin. Conversion: JJ Hanrahan. Penalties: Tyler Bleyendaal (3).
Southern Kings 17 Ulster 42
Southern Kings – tries: Tertius Kruger, Aston Fortuin. Conversions: Catrakilis, JT Jackson. Penalty: Cartrakilis.
Ulster – tries: John Cooney (2), Luke Marshall, Rob Herring, Matt Faddes, Sean Reidy. Conversions: Cooney (6)