Cheetahs backline coach Hawies Fourie is not a big fan of the new law interpretations in Super Rugby this season which have forced the Bloemfontein side to rethink their free-running approach.
The Cheetahs made a big impression last year with their attacking style which saw them look to strike from anywhere on the field and play at a high tempo with the ball in hand, but Fourie says that unfortunately it is simply not worth continuing on that path this season.
Following an opening weekend which saw just two tries scored in the two big South African derbies - one from each of the losing teams - the Cheetahs assistant coach believes that it would be foolish for his team to employ the same tactics which made them such an exciting package last year.
He told this website in an exclusive interview: "With the new interpretations there is not much use playing rugby in your own half and taking a few risks like we have done in the past. I don't know if that is what the referees want out of the game, I know I certainly don't, but I don't make the rules and we have just got to try and play accordingly.
"It is disappointing for me to see that the teams can't play attacking rugby anymore, that is what Super Rugby is about and I am not sure whether the new interpretations are complementing what we are trying to achieve in Super Rugby," added Fourie.
Fourie expects kicking and territory to take over as major priorities this season as teams try their best to avoid being penalised in their own half - a lesson that was learned by the Cheetahs and Sharks last week when they were punished by the accurate boots of ace goal-kickers Elton Jantjies and Morne Steyn respectively.
He explained: "You have to (play for territory) especially the way that Mark Lawrence and Marius Jonker reffed their games last week - there was really nothing in it for the teams to try and attack, especially in their own half.
"We can't run the risk of giving away penalties to a guy like Morne Steyn in our own half. If you take our game against the Lions they had 11 shots at goal and Jantjies slotted nine of them so he scored all of the points just through penalties, so it is not worth it to try and play too much rugby there," said Fourie.
Fourie confirmed that his focus has shifted to tactical kicking with Steyn and the Bulls looming this weekend, adding that the key for his side will be how quickly they are able to adapt to the referee.
"This early in the competition it is very important to play to the referee on the day. I think we made a few poor decisions in the second half against the Lions and we were punished for that so we need to play the game in the Bulls' half and see how Craig Joubert handles the breakdown and that will determine how much we can play with ball in hand and how much we have to kick," he said.
The Cheetahs backline coach is expecting an aerial assault from the Bulls and their master of the high ball Bjorn Basson who tormented the Sharks outside backs at Loftus Versfeld last week.
"We know Bjorn really well, he played for us for a few seasons and he is the best player in the air that I have seen. I thought that the Bulls would have used him more in previous seasons but they are definitely doing so this year so we will have a good aerial battle to cope with on Saturday," he said.
With right wing Dusty Noble out of action for some time with a serious injury Fourie is faced with a tough decision over who will go up against Basson before the team is named on Wednesday.
"Dusty Noble has got a serious knee injury, we don't know the full extent yet but it might be cruciate ligament so he might be out for the whole season. The options we have got to replace him are Ryno Benjamin, Cameron Jacobs and Willie le Roux," he revealed.
While the Cheetahs might be frustrated at the way that the law interpretations this season are stifling their attacking flair Fourie stressed that it is crucial for them to get a win under the belt before they leave for their overseas tour and said that trying to protect a lead in the way they did against the Lions is not the way to go about it.
"We have lost a number of close games now both in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup and I don't think there is too much worth in trying to hang on to a lead, we must continually try and get more points on the board and keep on attacking.
"We obviously need to play clever rugby but it is no use going into your shell and waiting for the final whistle.
"We needed the win to start off the season and it just puts a little bit more pressure on us to perform on the weekend before we leave to go overseas. We have put a big emphasis on winning all of our home games and we need to start as early as this weekend," he said.
By Michael de Vries
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