The Cell C Sharks had to fight hard for our 33-29 victory in Bloemfontein against a fired-up Free State side filled with youngsters looking to make a statement.
“The Cheetahs gave us a proper workout, it’s always difficult to come and play games like this, if you get into a situation where you potentially disrespect the opposition, they you get a tight game like this,” explained Cell C Sharks head coach Robert du Preez after the match.
“I have to say, this Cheetahs side is not bad, there are some good players in this team. They gave us a proper run for our money and in the end, the game could have gone either way.”
Despite the bonus point win, the coach felt his team needed to show more calm if they wanted to close out more opportunities.
“We had no patience on attack, we couldn’t get the phases going; to me that was the biggest issue. We had a lot of opportunities, especially in the first half, but couldn’t convert them.”
Although three of the Cell C Sharks tries came about through rolling mauls, du Preez admitted that it wasn’t a specific ploy they had necessarily decided on using in the planning.
“With all the penalties that we earned, they were kicked to touch and so the rolling maul became a regular option from the lineout and a good opportunity for attack.”
Captain Chiliboy Ralepelle paid tribute to his team-mates for their collective effort against a young Free State team that he also praised.
“It was a massive team effort, all credit to the team for maturity and attitude to come back and stick with it to the end,” he said.
“We played against a desperate Cheetahs’ side with young and inexperienced players with a point to prove, so we knew it was always going to be difficult against a team looking to put us under pressure. That was our biggest fear going into the game, that the youngsters would come out firing and looking to disrupt us as much as they could. And they did that, in the first 20 minutes they got under our skins and we lost composure.
But once we consolidated and got tighter, things slowly came right and we reaped some rewards. I have to say, that was a great performance from the Cheetahs.”
Although this was a very tight game and as the coach admitted, could have gone either way, but ultimately it was the Cell C Sharks who prevailed to take five log points out of the clash.
“We’re in the race and every game, every point counts, but we’re very happy with the five points,” the captain explained.
Taking positives out of the game, du Preez pointed to the times when his team was rewarded for patience on attack. But conversely, he identified when they weren’t patient as a problem area.
“Some of the tries we scored through the phases showed what we’re capable of, but at times we lost composure and throwing silly little offloads and 50-50 passes that weren’t really on.
“For me, that’s the biggest take-out from the game: patience on attack.”