Cheetahs target Cup quarters as they kick off in wet Parma
A winning start will be imperative if they are to reach their minimum tournament target
The Cheetahs will launch their latest odyssey in the Challenge Cup, aiming to reach the quarterfinals.
They have set themselves a realistic target after last time hitting the ceiling in the last 16. They play Zebre Parma away on Saturday and a winning start will be imperative if they are to reach their minimum tournament target.
“It will most probably be much tougher this year,” admitted head coach Hawies Fourie. “I would ideally like to see us in the quarterfinals but one will have to work week by week, game by game,” he said.
Though the coach expects a tough road to the last eight, it is in some way one they are familiar with. The Cheetahs based themselves in Parma in 2022 and have an intimate knowledge of their surrounds. Not that the weather allowed them much exploring.
“It helps a lot to have an idea about the conditions. We were based there as our home ground. So we are used to the hotel, the field, the training facilities and the weather.
“We know what to expect. I’ve shown the weather predictions for Friday and Saturday to the squad so they know what awaits us over there. It looks like it is going to rain on Friday and Saturday morning,” said the coach.
Curiously, the Cheetahs, who historically employed a playing style based on speed and width, are content playing in conditions that will require them to be more direct.
“We tried to prep for the wet conditions but it’s not always easy when it is 35°C over here. I think mentally we know what to expect and how we want to play,” Fourie explained.
“It would suit us best if it rains. We have a good pack, a good kicking game while our defence is good. Those are the things that win games and it is the three aspects of our game that have become our strong points over the past season or two.”
In the absence of more preseason matches Fourie conceded his team is short of a gallop.
“We did have very little game time to prepare. The other teams have all had eight games in the United Rugby Championship while we played against the Griffons and Lions,” said the coach.
“That is the big difference but on the other hand we are fresh and well rested. I doubt that will hinder us. If our attitude is right, we will perform well on Saturday.”
Still, his team will be required to hit the deck running in Parma. Next Sunday they host fellow pool one opponents the Sharks in Bloemfontein.
In the second week of January they host Section Paloise (Pau) before travelling to Oyonnax.
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