Bloemfontein - Cheetahs captain Ruan Pienaar knows all too well how tough it will be to try and beat runaway PRO14 log leaders Leinster in their own backyard, but he also knows that if things do go the Cheetahs way on Saturday, they will be in with a chance to halt the Irish side’s unbeaten run.
The defending champions have been exceptional this season, winning all 10 PRO14 games they have been involved in and racking up a massive points differential of 227 points, giving them an 11 point lead over second placed Ulster and 16 ahead of the Cheetahs ahead of this weekend’s match in Dublin.
However, Pienaar knows that sometimes, just sometimes, giants are meant to be slayed and while nobody will be giving his side a chance, he believes if they can play to their potential, they will have more than just a fair chance of an upset.
“Over the years they (Leinster) have built an identity and a culture into the club and everyone buys into that, but when all your ducks are in a row, then it gives the players an opportunity to express themselves, believe in the plan that the coach is driving,” Pienaar explained.
“They’ve also got a lot of senior players that have been around for a long time, that have won trophies. And all those youngsters that back them up, know what is expected of them when they get the opportunity to wear the jersey.
“I think they have built something really good over the last few years, and they keep the ball really well. Their workrate is good, and they work really hard for each other, so it is hard to find a weakness but there has to be a day where you can pounce. For us, we have to focus on our game, what we want to do and hopefully that is good enough to get a result.”
Pienaar said the Cheetahs didn’t expect less of a challenge because Leinster had some players away with Ireland on Six Nations duty.
“We know they have a big squad of quality players that they can choose from. They have in the past had players away in Six Nations and they haven’t dropped in terms of their quality. As a young group of players, we see it as a massive challenge, and we are looking forward to playing them.
“That is why we play in the competition, we get challenged every week and that is how we grow as a team. So yes, we expect a tough Leinster team even though they may be missing a few players.”
Pienaar welcomed the tough game they are heading into, saying the side needs a challenge like this to see just how far they have come this season.
“We started off well and then we went off on a tough tour. If we had won in Connacht then it would have been a great start to the tour. We had a few red cards along the way that made it difficult but slowly we are finding our feet again.
“It is also a bit disruptive, because you play for two weeks then have a week off and then a week and then have two weeks off. So to go away now on a three week tour will help bond the players. It is something we need at this stage.
“We know we will be challenged, we will be tested and for us as a group that is something we really need at this stage. We are positive, we have worked really hard in the last couple of weeks and we have to just focus on what we have to do and how to handle those pressure moments and score when we have the chance.”
Saturday's match at the RDS Arena is scheduled for 16:30 (SA time).
- PRO14 Media