The log-jam they are wedged into in Conference A and the quality of teams they are competing with means that the Toyota Cheetahs will see it as a non-negotiable that they have to start picking up away wins in order to sustain any kind of Guinness PRO 14 challenge.
Although the Cheetahs have won all three of their home games thus far, that has been counter-balanced by the three successive defeats they suffered on their first tour of the 2019/2020 campaign. As the Cheetahs got through to the play-offs in their first PRO 14 season on the back of their good home record that year, it might suggest that winning away isn’t such an imperative for the Bloemfontein team but their coach Hawies Fourie disagrees.
“We are competing against three really strong teams for the three play-off places in our conference,” said Fourie.
“Leinster are way out in front at the moment, but ourselves, Ulster and Glasgow Warriors are all very close together on the log. Only three of the four teams will go through. In the first season the Cheetahs played in the PRO 14 they won just one game away and lost just one at home and that was enough. But with those teams competing with us for places that probably won’t be enough this time.
“The way we see it we need to win four of five games away from home. And then we can’t afford to lose more than one or two at home.”
The Cheetahs are currently third in Conference A, three points behind second placed Ulster and just two ahead of fourth placed Glasgow Warriors. Leinster are nine points in front of Ulster and look once again set to top their conference and challenge strongly for the title.
The Cheetahs head to Wales to play the Ospreys in Swansea this weekend and Fourie says his team see it as an opportunity to regain some of the momentum that was lost on their losing three match tour.
Apart from losing to the Kings two weeks ago the Ospreys have had two successive poor weeks in the Champions Cup, and lost 44-3 to Saracens at the weekend.
“This is definitely a good opportunity for us and we have noted that the Ospreys haven’t had a great season so far,” said Fourie.
“But we know we still have to play well against them, and they may be better than their record suggests. Even though they lost, they played well against Munster (in the Champions Cup). They are a very good scrummaging team and their mauls are also really good. They are also a very disciplined team. They don’t concede many penalties, just eight a game, so you don’t get much opportunity to kick to touch to set up the lineout.
“You only get about 10 lineouts a game against them, and of course our lineout attack is one of our main weapons. We will have to play a lot from turn-overs and poor kicks,” added the Cheetahs coach.