Beware the Cheetahs!
This is a realistic warning for the other teams eying Currie Cup glory this year. At the union’s headquarters in Bloemfontein and among supporters there is a firm belief that, for the first time since they were forced for play PRO14 rugby after being cut from the Super Rugby competition, the Cheetahs will be at full strength for the Currie Cup challenge.
The Currie Cup series does not clash with the Pro14 comoetition.
Appointed Currie Cup captain Tian Meyer will know what difference this makes. Last year the Free State Cheetahs simply had two win their first two matches in the six-match competition to compensate in advance for the loss of their best who played in the PRO14 that overlapped with the Currie Cup competition from the Currie Cup’s third week.
It didn’t work out well for the Cheetahs who had to play in the promotion/relegation match against the SWD Eagles but easily won the crucial encounter (36-5). However, for that match they could field their full PRO14 side.
In these times of too much rugby and too little time to fit in all competitions, the Currie Cup competition has been limited to six matches by each team, with each team playing every other side in home and away fixtures determined by relative strength.
However, the fairness is skewed by which a strong team plays another away and another at home.
Fair? Not remotely!
The top four sides will contest the semi-finals
But back to the Cheetahs: They have their head coach Franco Smith who leaves after this competition to coach Italy. With him he will have the man who takes over from him Hawies Fourie, who is there to “learn” the ways and players of the Cheetahs until Smith’s departure.
He will undoubtedly make his inputs. They will of necessity be fresh and perhaps bring a new dimension the Cheetahs play if applied in conjunction with those of Smith.
The Cheetahs open their Currie Cup campaign against the Blue Bulls in Pretoria on Friday, July 19. The Bulls by then would have played last year’s losing finalists and the previous years’ champions Western Province at Newlands. This match is on Saturday.