Super Rugby: Cheetahs ready to chase Sunwolves despite heat and humidity

Harumichi Tatekawa (right) of the Sunwolves powers past Robbie Coetzee of the Lions during their Super Rugby opener in Tokyo on Feb 27, 2016.
Harumichi Tatekawa (right) of the Sunwolves powers past Robbie Coetzee of the Lions during their Super Rugby opener in Tokyo on Feb 27, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

The humidity and heat in Singapore will not be a problem for South African side Cheetahs, who will play their first Super Rugby game in the Republic on Saturday against the new Japanese side Sunwolves.

Even though the demanding conditions were immediately felt and noticed by the 25-player squad who arrived following a 10-hour flight from Johannesburg, the Bloemfontein-based team have brushed aside concerns that the change in weather will wear the team down.

Said captain Francois Venter: "It's our first time in Singapore and the first thing I noticed was the weather. It was quite hot when we stepped out of the airport.

Added coach Franco Smith: "It's humid, the guys sweat a lot, which means that the ball gets more slippery. Once it's slippery, it's difficult to control and to spread it across the park like most teams would want to do.

Coming from Bloemfontein, which is 1,395m above sea level, will be an advantage to the Cheetahs.

Added Venter: "The amount of oxygen available will suit us, because we come from one of the highest places in South Africa. The altitude helps us, we'll have enough oxygen. But the main thing is to be prepared for the sweatiness, and we'll adapt to the humidity."

Said Smith: "It's important for us to acclimatise quickly. Game plan wise, we'll not change anything. We just got to be more clinical."

The Cheetahs will be missing the services of South Africa Rugby 2015 Player of the Year Lood de Jager, who played for South Africa at last year's Rugby World Cup and scored a try for the Springboks in their shock 32-34 loss to Japan in the pool stage.

A key player in the team, the 23-year-old lock was left behind in South Africa to rest.

Said Venter: "It's a chance for the rest of the players to step up. No one is indispensable in the team."

The Cheetahs will be eager to register their first win of the season on Saturday, following defeats in their opening two matches. They lost 33-34 to Argentina's new Super Rugby franchise Jaguares on Feb 26, and they were beaten 20-10 by South African side Stormers last weekend.

Their opponents, the Sunwolves, have the advantage of being the fresher side of the two, having rested last week following their 13-26 loss to the Lions, another South African side, in their opening game in Tokyo two weeks ago.

Tickets for Saturday's game are still available at Sports Hub Tix.