With the 22nd year of Super Rugby fast approaching, we take a look a look at the Toyota Cheetahs Super Rugby prospects in 2017.
Toyota Cheetahs Super Rugby Prospects
The South African teams, competing in two separate conferences, seem to relatively evenly matched. The early prediction is that the Lions will be the team to beat and the Kings likely to be the basement dwellers again. In between we are likely to see the a close contest for supremacy between the Bulls, Sharks, Stormers and Cheetahs. As we know, is a very long tournament and anything could possibly happen.
Outgoing players include props Maks van Dyk and BG Uys. Springbok lock Lood de Jager departs to Pretoria to join up with the Vodacom Blue Bulls.
Incoming players include Tom Botha and Junior Pokemela from the Kings and Clinton Swart from the Griquas Currie Cup team as well as a number of Free State Cheetahs Currie Cup players. Pokemela and Swart should be two players to look out for in 2017 and are good additions to the Cheetahs squad.
Performance in 2016
Their performance in 2016 would have frustrated their fans and coaching staff. They were capable of scoring superb tries, often from a long way out. Their defensive abilities were no match for their attacking endevours though and they leaked far too many tries. Often, they were on the losing end of high scoring games.
They ended up 3rd in the Africa 1 Conference, 6th overall in the South African Group and
Franco Smith has moved around a fair amount for such a young coach. He started off as a back line coach at the Cheetahs. He moved on to take up the Head Coach position at his former club in Italy, Treviso. On his return to South Africa he was appointed as an assistant coach at the Cheetahs. In 2015, he took the help of the Free State University team (Shimlas) and mentored them to become the eventual Varsity Cup Champions.
Smith took over the reigns at the Cheetahs from Naka Drotske with 3 games to go in 2015 and then for the full 2016 season.
The Style of Play
The Cheetahs have always been known as a team that enjoys playing with the ball in hand and that is unlikely to change in 2017. As we noted earlier, they played a very exciting brand of attacking rugby in 2016, but their defense was simply not up to the task.
They easily won the Currie Cup in 2016 courtesy of an unbeaten season, but the question will be can they make the step up in class?
If Smith can tighten up the Cheetahs defense and not leak as many tries as they did in 2016 they should be good value for money. Although only in an early season hit out, they were soundly beaten by the Sharks.
The Playing Strip
Courtesy of the Free State Cheetahs, here are their jerseys for 2017. On the left is their home jersey and on the right their away jersey.
The Cheetahs are often referred to as every rugby supporter in South Africa’s “second team”. They will be hoping to make themselves a firm favourite of very many more supporters by putting together a strong challenge for 2017.