Cheetahs keen to redeem themselves against Sunwolves

When the fixtures for this year's Super Rugby competition were announced, the clash with the Sunwolves caught the attention of Franco Smith, coach of the Cheetahs, one of six South African teams.

Given Japan's shock defeat of the Springboks at last year's Rugby World Cup, he will not be taking the challenge lightly when his men take on the team - co-based in Japan and Singapore - next Saturday at the National Stadium.

In a conference call yesterday, Smith, 43, vowed: "After Japan beat South Africa, we need to make sure it never happens again."

Even though the South African has limited knowledge of their opponents, one of two new sides in the 18-team league and Asia's first Super Rugby franchise, Smith warned against underestimating the newcomers.

"We have limited video footage of the team (Sunwolves), which makes it difficult (to study them). But we should never underestimate a team," Smith added.

LEARNING CURVE

After Japan beat South Africa, we need to make sure it never happens again.

FRANCO SMITH, Cheetahs coach, on why his team are keen to beat the Sunwolves in their Super Rugby clash.

After all, the Cheetahs are still reeling from last week's humiliating loss to another new team, the Argentina-based Jaguares. In front of a partisan crowd in Bloemfontein in their first game of the season, Smith's charges raced to a 21-point lead, only to collapse to a 33-34 defeat.

Despite the shock, the Cheetahs are already looking ahead to the game against the Sunwolves.

Smith noted the challenges posed by the Sunwolves, saying: "Like all Japanese teams, they love to play the ball around and they use the length of the field well.

"They are strong and they present themselves very well in contact situations."

Cheetahs captain Francois Venter, 24, added that they would need to make adjustments ahead of the match.

He said: "The one thing South African teams are not used to is the way they (the Sunwolves) defend. They go low and they tackle at knee height. They play the expanse of the game and they like to move the ball around.

"Playing (the) quick ball will be important for us. (We need to have) more straight-on contact, and getting them into weaker positions would help."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2016, with the headline 'Cheetahs keen to redeem themselves against Sunwolves'. Print Edition | Subscribe