Toyota Cheetahs are hoping for a morale booster ahead of their clash against Ospreys in the next Guinness Pro14, in the form of their former captain Oupa Mohoje.
The Cheetahs visit Swansea tomorrow (Sat) and desperately need to win so they can regain the momentum they lost when they suffered three successive defeats on their recent international tour.
After being well placed following three good home wins to start the season, the Bloemfontein team is now caught up in a deadlock in their conference.
With promising loose-forward Jasper Wiese missing the trip due to suspension after being sent off in the last match against the Cardiff Blues, the news that Mohoje might be ready to tour after a lengthy absence owing to injury will inspire confidence in the camp.
“We will give Oupa until we finalise our squad to prove his fitness but there is a strong possibility he will be ready to travel with us,” said Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie.
“Obviously we’d welcome his experience. The other guys are all fine with the exception of those who are serving suspensions. I am pleased with the number of players who are putting up their hands and coming through,” he noted.
What Fourie is less pleased with is the slowness with which his team is adapting to the demand to switch approaches when they move from the dry heat of Bloemfontein to the cold and damp conditions they are invariably met with on match days in the northern hemisphere.
“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,” acknowleged the coach.
“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 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,” noted Fourie.
What added to the challenge for him on his first northern hemisphere tour with the Cheetahs was that the conditions in the training week were usually quite different from what met them on match day.
“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.
“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,” he added.
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.