Given their slim chances, do Sharks and Stormers fans hope for a Cheetahs loss, or do we as a nation, get behind the Cheetahs? Tank Lanning in his eNCA.com column says the latter!
Going into the game at Newlands on Saturday, I was one of those who wanted the Cheetahs to win as they were the team best positioned to make the Super Rugby quarter finals, and came away disappointed that we had managed to potentially stuff up a chance at getting two sides into the finals series.
Of course, the flip side of the argument is that if the Cheetahs cannot beat the Stormers at Newlands, then what chance do they have of winning a quarter final away from Bloemfontein?
But a win at Newlands, along with a good win against the Blues next weekend, together with their guaranteed 4 points for their bye in the final round, could have seen them hosting a quarter final rather than having to travel, and in that situation, anything can happen.
But it was not to be, and with the Stormers and Sharks having won on the weekend, they have revived their mitochondria like chances of sneaking into quarters, perhaps even at the expense of the Cheetahs.
The game at Newlands took a very long time to ignite, but when it did, it was with a serious blue and white tinge.
The Cheetahs, perhaps inexperienced at handling the international break while in contention for Super Rugby honours, seemed to lose the momentum built up prior to the break, while the Stormers, basically out of Super Rugby, seemed to use the break to their advantage.
Apart from Siya Kolisi, who was a giant amongst men, two players who were simply outstanding for the home side were hooker Skarra Ntubeni and flyhalf Elton Jantjies. The latter I have been particularly hard on given his weak defence, and seemingly poor fit with the defensively minded Stormers, but it was the exact opposite on Saturday. Clearly having used the break to upgrade his conditioning, he was part of a defensive system that simply shut down any hint of Cheetahs attack at source. Throw in his obvious skills on attack, with that lovely little step under enormous pressure leading to a try, and it was without doubt his best game for his new franchise.
Talking about shutting down the Cheetahs at source, it was the visitors lineout that went AWOL at Newlands. De Kock Steenkamp has been an unsung hero in that department, doing amazing work on the opposition ball. And together with a scrum that failed to dominate, despite now boasting an entire Springbok front row, especially when that car crash in slow motion that is the Coenie Oosthuizen at tighthead experiment, was in play, the Cheetahs just did not have enough possession or territory to get that backline firing.
It’s tough enough to play with bad ball, hence Raymond Rhule being shovelled a few passes that should not have seen the light of day, but impossible to play with no ball!
So can the Cheetahs recover from this body blow?
They are the last team to have a normal bye in the tournament, in the final round of pool games, and can thus add 4 points to their current total of 46 log points, taking them to 50.
50 points does not guarantee them a quarter final as even the Sharks and Stormers can get to 52, but a win against the Blues in Bloem this weekend guarantees them a quarter final, while a 4 try bonus point win could even see them hosting that game!
So do Sharks and Stormers fans hope for a Cheetahs loss so as to give their team a slim chance of sneaking an away quarter final, or do we as a nation, get behind the Cheetahs and punt for them to try and get that home quarter final? I say the latter. Come on you Cheetahs!