Golden Lions coach Van Rooyen talks up Free State Cheetahs
Introduction of veteran Ruan Pienaar would give Cheetahs a lift
The Golden Lions may be the only other unbeaten side in the Currie Cup but they are approaching their clash on Friday against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein with a large degree of caution.
The Cheetahs‚ who over the past few seasons have had to campaign on two fronts‚ have developed into a formidable Currie Cup unit as their 68-14 annihilation of Griquas so glaringly illustrated last weekend.
They sit on top of the Currie Cup standings but have the same number of points as Griquas who have played a game more.
The Golden Lions lurk in third place‚ with one log point less following come-from-behind wins over the Pumas and more recently Western Province at Newlands.
Although they displayed great fighting spirit in those matches‚ coach Ivan van Rooyen knows his team cannot afford the Cheetahs stealing the march on them on Friday.
“This match will present a totally different challenge‚” said Van Rooyen.
The coach is all too aware that Franco Smith’s charges have been knocked into shape in the cut and thrust of the Pro 14.
“You can see they have played together as a team at a high level for the last year and a half‚” he said. “The players are used to playing different levels.
Having campaigned in Europe the last few seasons‚ the Cheetahs have had to sharpen up in areas they historically have not garnered too many plaudits.
“They have a very good set-piece‚” said Van Rooyen. “They have good attack from that as well. They threaten you with numbers and they threaten you with width. They are dangerous on attack and defence. They’re a very good team.”
Van Rooyen also highlighted the new threat Ruan Pienaar is likely to pose should he crack the nod for selection this weekend.
The 35-year-old Pienaar has signed a two-year contract with the Cheetahs with his new employers hoping he will bring much-needed composure to a side in almost constant flux.
The fact that Pienaar played 141 games for Ulster‚ much of it in the Pro 14‚ also comes as a huge boost.
“You can’t buy experience‚” said Van Rooyen. “He is an exceptional player with experience. He has a great passing game and a great kicking game. He knows the culture there and the way they want to play. He’ll be a great benefit for them.”