Well the eagerly awaited pre-season tussle between the Cheetahs and the Lions, or should I say Cheetahs B and Vodacom Cup Lions, is done. The game was a good hard tussle for most of the game.
The Lions won 33-17 which to be fair is a reflection of the game. The Lions did deserve their victory and ultimately used their chances far better than the guys from Bloem.
Most people are now writing the Cheetahs off already, based on their first outing of the year against a team full of youngsters that want to prove a point. Take nothing away from the Lions they deserved their win.
The lions did dominate up front in the scrums as I expected. When Nyakane came on it was more equal with the lions having a slight edge in the scrums. The Cheetahs however dominated the breakdowns in the first half and it was the main reason why they had the lead at half time. Marnus Schoeman drives people nuts and with him and Heinrich Brüssouw in the match day 22, teams will struggle to win the breakdowns against the Cheetahs.This will also give the Cheetahs good ball they need and it can be dangerous for their attacking backline. Schoeman was replaced at the interval and the Cheetahs lost the breakdowns in the second half, getting bad ball and conceding more turnovers which the Lions took and scored.
In the backline guys like Ebersohn, Graaf, Nel, Brümmer, Van Zyl and Geel never played together before and the backline did not flow as well as expected. Graaf is also not a wing and it showed when he made a huge error which lead to a lions try, he also threw a long pass from Graaf that led to the intercept try from Lionel Cronje when the cheetahs were chasing the game. I feel they missed the experience of Adriaan Strauss, Brüssouw etc a lot in the second half. They needed someone to calm them down.
I thought the Cheetahs defence was good and the Lions had to revert to kicking over the defensive line which caught the Cheetahs with their tails between their legs and the lions took advantage of this and made telling scores. The Cheetahs panicked and started to make more and more errors.
One also has to remember that the Cheetahs won against the Stormers in last years warm up game but lost twice against them in the competition and people were also giving the stormers a bit of flack. The Stormers still ended the year on top of the log and the Cheetahs 10th. A few years back the Bulls lost against the Kings in a warm up too!! It would therefore be stupid to make too much of this game.
Apart from the fact that the Cheetahs has a lot of work to do before the competition and I have no doubt that they will learn from this game. I’m please that the Cheetahs lost this one, last year too much were made of the win against the Stormers and the guys lost the first 3 outings of the season. Hopefully this win will make the players stay humble and keep on working hard.
Like already said a few times this year the Cheetahs were without approx. 11 first choice players. Guys like Goosen, Le Roux, Brüssouw, Coenie and Strauss will make a huge difference to the team.
As for the lions they also missed their stars like Jantjies, Taute, Mapoe, Van der Merwe etc. So its fair to say they were also hampered a bit, but al lot of the youngsters that played against the Cheetahs know each other from age group level and played together before. While a team like the Cheetahs consist of 3 unions (Free State, Griquas and the Griffons). To get the squad to gel before one game is a bit far fetched.
Lets wait and see against the Sharks in a month’s time before we write a team off.