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Cheetahs 'took Clermont close to a dark place'

By Rugby365
Rynier Bernardo and Marko Janse van Rensburg of Toyota Cheetahs look dejected after defeat in the EPCR Challenge Cup match between Toyota Cheetahs and Section Paloise at NRCA Stadium on January 14, 2024 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

The Cheetahs took three-time Challenge Cup winners Clermont close to a dark place in their Challenge Cup Round of 16 encounter in France on Saturday but the sands of time caught up with them.

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That is the opinion of their new head coach Izak van der Westhuizen, who revealed the last couple of week have been tough as they battled niggling injuries.

The Cheetahs were trailing 3-20 at half-time before they started their fightback, spurred on by the introduction of flank Siba Qoma, who grabbed two quick tries in the second half.

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Cheetahs coach Izak van der Westhuizen talks about playing in France

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Cheetahs coach Izak van der Westhuizen talks about playing in France

Their fightback resulted in three tries in the final quarter of the game and one had the feeling if they had another ten minutes to go, the result could’ve gone either way.

“Technically we weren’t quite there, we made a couple of technical errors. But those are things we can work on and figure out,” Van der Westhuizen commented after the game.

Match Summary

1
Penalty Goals
1
4
Tries
3
2
Conversions
2
0
Drop Goals
0
104
Carries
104
6
Line Breaks
3
22
Turnovers Lost
13
7
Turnovers Won
5

“Overall I think we took Clermont close to a dark place there at the end. Would have loved it if we could’ve pulled off a win.

“You could see they play for each other and they fought for each other. So I want to commend the players for that and I want to applaud them for their effort.”

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Van der Westhuizen touched on the challenges they endured over the last couple of week having to juggle two competitions, the SA Cup and the Challenge Cup, while they haven’t really had proper opposition in their build-up.

“It’s been a tough couple of days, couple of weeks, trying to get a settled squad. The moment you bank on one then you’ve got a niggle or an injury.

“We had to make a late replacement in the week on props and we had to make a replacement just before the game with Reinhardt [Fortuin] who had an injury.

“I think the guys that slotted in did a very good job, it just shows how adaptable they are and that we have created a little bit of depth with regards to guys who are coming off the bench and still being able to play,” the coach added.

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He said the biggest difference was playing at this level week in and week out, adding: “The difference between SA Cup and EPCR is massive and being able to make that step-up takes a little bit of time to get used to.

“So I think for us that will always be the challenge. We have to try and train in a way that simulates that, which is very difficult.

“But there are quality players and you could see there’s a lot of fight and effort from the guys which is all you can ask for as a coach.”

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