S15 preview: Rebels v Cheetahs

Cheetahs away jersey
Cheetahs away jersey
On the heels of making history by recording their first ever win over the Bulls, the Cheetahs hopped on a plain to start their tour. First stop Melbourne, where they’ll face the Rebels. This tour could’ve been a lot tougher and whilst it’s still no walk in the park, I reckon they should consider themselves lucky to come face to face with the only team yet to have had a real deal hit-out.

The Rebels bared their teeth during the recent warm-up games, overcoming the Waratahs, Reds and Hurricanes, consequently sending a clear message that they should not be underestimated. The three-from-three in preparation of the tournaments is a very good turn-around as they’ve never managed to win any of their previous trial matches, this however, means absolutely nothing. They might have built some belief in the squad, but it’s a whole different story when the pressure is on to actually climb the log ladder.
Scott Higginbotham

Scott Higginbotham

Having cleaned the cupboards a bit in getting rid of trouble makers Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor, one gets the sense that the Rebels are still out to make the headlines, but this time for all the right reasons. And at the head of this campaign is a formidable redhead with a tendency to break or run over anything that gets between him and the try line. Scott Higginbotham will wear the captaincy armband now that Welshman Gareth Delve has also left the franchise and I expect him to merrily continue his havoc wreaking ways.

At the time of writing this, new coach Tony McGahan had not announced his line-up yet, but I expect a bunch of the new recruits to make their Rebellious debuts. The club did confirm that former All Black Tamati Ellison will be starting in the number 13 jersey and that’s something I look forward to. He is a no-nonsense ball-carrier with exceptional handling skills and good be just what the side needed to bolster both their attack and defense.

You don’t change a winning formula and therefore Naka Drotské named an unchanged team for the clash against their Aussie rivals. After recovering from their shock loss to the Lions, they got back to the basics to sneak past the Bulls, but we haven’t yet been treated to the type of running rugby that made the Cheetahs everybody’s favourite second team. Granted the horrendous conditions last week made it quite impossible, but not scoring a single try is not something the Free State fans are accustomed to.

So far things are looking good as the weather report suggests a fine day with 0% chance of rain. It means that Willie le Roux will have the opportunity to do his magic and get the speedsters away. He’s done well under the circumstances, but we want to see him make and score tries with his adventurous play.
Phillip van der Walt

Phillip van der Walt

I am fairly confident that the Cheetahs are better off amongst the forwards and should be able to hold on to enough ball to create intuitive moves and get points on the boards. Thus far their defensive efforts have been solid thanks to the likes of Lappies Labuschagne and Philip van der Walt. These two tackling machines, assisted by the rest of the team, have seen to it that no try has been scored against them up till now.

Statistically the odds are largely in favour of the touring team as they’ve won all three previous encounters with an average margin of 15 points. They’ve also had time to iron out some of the error areas whilst the hosts will be making their 2014 bow. I’m backing the stats.

Cheetahs by 12
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