Toyota Cheetahs coach Hawie Fourie is preparing his players for their Guinness PRO 14 fixture in the northern hemisphere by dipping balls in water so that the players get used to passing when it is slippery.
The Cheetahs travel to Wales next week for their clash with the Ospreys in Swansea and Fourie has identified their slowness to adapt their game to the conditions that have pertained in the United Kingdom and Ireland on match as one of the reasons why his team has lost the impressive early season momentum built up through three comfortable home victory.
After getting off to a flying start, the Cheetahs lost all three games on their first overseas trip of their 2019/2020 campaign, leaving them with a record of three wins in six starts.
“Not adapting our game to northern hemisphere conditions is definitely a big part of the reason why we haven’t won since we last played in Bloemfontein,” said Fourie.
“It is difficult when you are training on dry surfaces and under blue skies and the temperature is 30 degrees not to throw the ball around in training. Then everything works well, but you go overseas and what works here, both on the training field and in the matches, doesn’t work.
“You simply cannot play the same brand or playing style in the overseas games and expect to win. We need to understand that, and the guys are starting to do so and are improving, but we are still not up to scratch with it.”
What added to the challenge for Fourie on his first northern hemisphere tour with the Cheetahs was the way the weather gods conspired against his team during their three weeks on the road.
“There was just one training day where it drizzled a bit when we were there, but the rest of the time we had clear weather,” he said.
“It would be cold, but the skies would be clear and it wouldn’t be wet. It’s hard to tell the players they can’t play when the sun is shining. Then it rains at the weekend. We have to adapt. We are getting there, and hopefully in this next game we will do so. It is imperative we get it right as we are in a tough group and can't afford to fall behind.
“We have been trying things like putting balls in buckets of water. That makes the ball wet and gets the players used to handling a wet ball. Once you get used to playing with a ball that is a bit slippery you get confidence in passing, and your halfbacks get confidence in putting distance into their passes.”
Fourie says the Cheetahs have been working on becoming a team with two distinctly different game plans - one for the home games in South Africa, which will be mostly played in dry conditions, and one for the games played on the other side of the equator.
Jasper Wiese is serving a three week suspension for the dangerous challenge that saw him sent off in the first half against the Cardiff Blues last time out, otherwise the Cheetahs will be close to full muster for their trip to Swansea, with the possible return of Springbok loose-forward Oupa Mohoje a potential boost.
“Oupa may be back, we will check on him before we finalise the travelling squad. Obviously we’d welcome his experience. The other guys are all fine with the exception of those who are serving suspensions. I am please with the number of players who are putting up their hands and coming through.”