Mon, 18 Jan 2021

  • Carl Wegner, the Cheetahs' stand-in skipper, wants his team-mates to embrace a small bit of the past when they face the Bulls this weekend.
  • The Free Staters have been the only team to defeat the men from Pretoria since Jake White took over and Wegner believes that injection of confidence could prove vital.
  • Wegner's cheery attitude is a nice tonic for a team that's still hamstrung by an uncertain future.

If there's anything the past few years have taught the Cheetahs, it's that looking back on things shouldn't be relied on too heavily.

Even if the past continues to show how resilient the Free Staters remain, the uncertainty over their future requires them to look forward.

That fits in neatly with the current Currie Cup campaign, where they went from early Super Rugby Unlocked contenders to a position where they need to actively be resurgent to defend their domestic title.

Saturday's trip to Loftus to take on the Bulls hardly makes their quest easier, but skipper Carl Wegner believes he and his team-mates could benefit from being a bit nostalgic.

The Cheetahs have been the only team to inflict defeat on the Bulls since Jake White has taken over, producing a compellingly determined performance in winning 19-17 in the second round of Unlocked.

It's not an achievement to be sneered at.

Teams: Bulls

15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14 David Kriel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp

Substitutes: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marnus Potgieter

Cheetahs

15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rhyno Smith, 13 Howard Mnisi, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Victor Sekekete, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Carl Wegner (captain), 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Khutha Mchunu, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Boan Venter

Substitutes: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Cameron Dawson, 18 Erich de Jager, 19 Chris Massyn, 20 George Cronje, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin, 23 William Small-Smith

"I don't think we should underestimate it," said Wegner.

"We'll definitely take some confidence from that. I think what's important is that the Bulls team we beat in Unlocked was a very strong one.

"We might have a few new players in the team since then, but the important thing is that we showed that evening that what we do, how we train and the game-plan we've formulated does work. It's really just about discipline and execution. We definitely won't need to take a step back."

The hardworking 29-year-old lock from Ficksburg's cheery attitude is actually a perfect tonic for his side at the moment who, without necessarily looking demotivated, are wary and perhaps even weary of where they'll find themselves after the franchise's expulsion from PRO Rugby.

For the past two years, Wegner had been plying his trade in Japan with Toyota Verblitz, where he ironically played under White, before returning to the City of Roses.

And his time there was memorable exactly for the fact that he learned to appreciate the simple pleasures of the game again.

"I have to point out that the quality of rugby in Japan is far better than some people still perceive it to be," said Wegner.

"There's a fair amount of intellectual capital in the country. But even if I grew as a player, the biggest thing I took from the experience was simple enjoyment.

"The Japanese players work unbelievably hard just to play professional rugby. We tend to forget the true values of rugby in South Africa because it's so competitive.

"To a large extent, Japanese players still don't really play just for the money. And that's a lesson I've taken to heart, to just give me a new relish to play the game."

Kick-off at Loftus is at 16:30 on Saturday.

Source: News24

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