The Free State Cheetahs have not lost a Currie Cup game since the semifinal in 2015 and will pose a huge threat for Western Province when the sides meet in Bloemfontein this weekend.
Free State romped through the 2016 Currie Cup‚ winning all 10 matches and started the 2017 campaign with an emphatic 47-12 win over the Sharks in Bloemfontein last week.
Despite their Super Rugby woes — the Cheetahs won only four of 15 matches — at Currie Cup level‚ they are formidable.
That is why WP coach John Dobson will integrate several Stormers players into his squad for the trip to Bloemfontein after the Chiefs eliminated the Super Rugby team at the quarterfinal stage last weekend.
"Maybe in years gone past some guys would feel a bit let down after the anticlimax or the hype of Super Rugby‚ but they are all very keen‚" Dobson said about the Stormers players.
"There is a really good culture in the Stormers. I think what’s been very good this year is how closely aligned the teams are‚ so the integration [between the teams] is almost seamless because the systems are the same across the board.
"That’s a credit to Fleckie [Stormers coach Robbie Fleck] and Gert Smal [director of rugby] on how they got it working.
"It is a bit tough because at one stage we planned around taking the Provincial Challenge team to Bloem this weekend to play the Currie Cup champions.
"So‚ I feel a bit sad we are not going to‚ as the Stormers aren’t in the Super Rugby semifinal and you do feel a loyalty to the guys that have put in so much.
"But the truth is there are some amazing players in the Stormers’ team who will be available and who need some rugby. Every single one of them who have been mooted as possibly playing at the weekend are as keen as mustard.
"This is definitely a very hard game for us. The Stormers went up there a few weeks ago‚ it was pretty tough and that was with all the big-name players playing for us‚ so to go there with what will be largely a Challenge team would be tough.
"The Free State Cheetahs haven’t lost since 2015.
"I suspect‚ and I can’t put words in their mouth‚ what they are trying to do is trying to get as many Currie Cup points as they can before they go into Pro12‚ because they had a great Currie Cup success story last year when they went unbeaten.
"We are aware that they are probably targeting this game as a definite win for them. It is essentially their Super Rugby team‚ so we are going to have to do something special."