Toyota Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie is banking on the second half of the PRO14 Rugby competition to help seal a lucrative playoff place.
And Fourie knows all too well, much of their hopes will be pinned on a series of games in South Africa where they will be able to employ the free-running style that carried them to the Currie Cup crown two months ago.
The Cheetahs opened with three big wins, and then stuttered on their overseas tour – losing three on the trot before bouncing back against the Ospreys in their last game to sit in third spot in their group and well placed for their assault in the new year.
The biggest factor has been adapting to the Northern Hemisphere conditions, something which Fourie believes they have done well in recent times, but Fourie is looking forward to seeing his side let loose on their home ground in 2020.
“I think we have got the recipe right on how we should play – in terms of when to attack and when to kick, and our defence has become better in the past few months as well. We know how to play in Europe and we were unlucky not to get a win in those first two games on our tour but we know we can,” he said.
“In the second half of the competition we have seven games in Bloemfontein and two against the Kings, so we have nine games in South Africa and we can then play the kind of game that the players are used to and which they enjoy.
“Everyone has made the headshift on how to play in the Northern Hemisphere. What has been better for me has been the breakdowns, we still give away too many penalties and turnovers at the breakdowns. That is the most important thing to work on when we get back from the holiday, to get our breakdowns right and to keep our ball in the process.”
The Cheetahs will have three weeks off now before they return just before their fixtures start again, knowing that a fresh mind will do them well as they prepare for their assault on the playoff rounds.
“We gave the guys around 3 weeks off – they obviously have training programmes to complete in this time – but I think it is a good time to give them a mental break. We played Currie Cup and then Pro Rugby and from January our schedule is more cluttered than it is now.
“You always feel a bit nervous giving the guys off at this time of the season. But I think the time with the families will do them well.”