Toyota Cheetahs captain Ruan Pienaar knows the odds are stacked against his side when they face defending PRO14 Rugby champions Leinster in Dublin tomorrow (Sat), but believes they can cause an upset.
The defending PRO14 Rugby champions have been exceptional this season, winning all their 10 PRO14 games and racking up a massive points differential of 227 points. This gave them an 11-point lead over second-placed Ulster and 16 ahead of the Cheetahs ahead of this weekend’s match.
Pienaar believes if the Cheetahs can find their form they will have a chance of upsetting the defending champs and ending their unbeaten run.
“Over the years Leinster have built an identity and a culture into the club and everyone buys into that, but when all your ducks are in a row, it gives the players an opportunity to express themselves, and believe in the plan that the coach is driving,” Pienaar explained.
“They’ve also got a lot of senior players that have been around for a long time, that have won trophies. And all those youngsters that back them up, know what is expected of them when they get the opportunity to wear the jersey.
“I think they have built something really good over the last few years, and they keep the ball really well. Their work rate is good, and they work really hard for each other, so it is hard to find a weakness but there has to be a day where you can pounce. For us, we have to focus on our game, what we want to do and hopefully that is good enough to get a result,” he pointed out.
Pienaar said the Cheetahs didn’t expect less of a challenge because Leinster had some players away with Ireland on Six Nations duty.
“We know they have a big squad of quality players that they can choose from. They have in the past had players away in Six Nations and they haven’t dropped in terms of their quality. As a young group of players, we see it as a massive challenge, and we are looking forward to playing them.
“That is why we play in the competition, we get challenged every week and that is how we grow as a team. So yes, we expect a tough Leinster team even though they may be missing a few players,” he conceded.
Pienaar welcomed the tough game they are heading into, saying the side needs a challenge like this to see just how far they have come this season.
“We started off well and then we went off on a tough tour. If we had won in Connacht then it would have been a great start to the tour. We had a few red cards along the way that made it difficult but slowly we are finding our feet again.
He added: “It is also a bit disruptive because you play for two weeks then have a week off and then a week and then have two weeks off. So to go away now on a three-week tour will help bond the players. It is something we need at this stage.
“We know we will be challenged, we will be tested and for us as a group that is something we really need at this stage. We are positive, we have worked really hard in the last couple of weeks and we have to just focus on what we have to do and how to handle those pressure moments and score when we have the chance.”