Monday 12 November 2018

Muldoon preparing to use 'smart' plan to stay hot on Cheetahs' heels

Muldoon: "We have to be smart in how we play the game and we don’t want to give them huge opportunities to run the ball." Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
David Kelly

David Kelly

Connacht take centre stage this weekend as the only two surviving Guinness PRO14 fixtures, as luck would have it, are staged in the competition's novel South African territory.

The westerners may struggle to live up to the billing; the Cheetahs are averaging almost 40 points per home fixture and it is difficult to see whether the Irish side can play the hosts at their game.

"The game will be kicking off at 7.35pm in the evening South African time so hopefully heat won't be as big of a factor as during the day," says captain John Muldoon. "We have trained in the middle of the day all week so by the time the game comes, we should be well adjusted to it.

"But the conditions are only one part of the game and it can be an excuse if you want it to be. There is no doubt that the Cheetahs are a very good attacking side. If you give them time and space they will hurt you. We have to be smart in how we play the game and we don't want to give them huge opportunities to run the ball. If we fall into that trap, we will be in big trouble."

Time was when Connacht would have relished such a challenge; under new coach Kieran Keane, they have fallen between two stools and their game has more often than not slipped beneath the cracks.

"It's a massive challenge but one we are really relishing," says Keane. "We will be focusing on our game-plan and what we can control and hopefully delivering a winning performance on Saturday.

"Everyone is familiar with their style of play. They play some really exciting and attacking rugby.

"They played like that when they came to the Sportsground and they were hard to beat.

"Since they joined the league only one team has won here."

Connacht, who make just two changes, including the return of centre Pita Ahki, confirmed yesterday as a summer departure to Toulouse, will not become the second.

Verdict: Cheetahs

Cheetahs - C Blommetjies; C Barry, F Venter (capt), N Lee, L Obi; N Marais, Z Mkhabela; O Nche, T van Jaarsveld, J Coetzee; J Basson, R Hugo; P Schoeman, H Venter, U Cassiem. Reps: J du Toit, C Marais, T Botha, R Bernardo, O Mohoje, T Meyer, F Zeilinga, S Maxano

Connacht - T O'Halloran; C Kelleher, E Griffin, P Ahki, M Healy; J Carty, C Blade; D Buckley, T McCartney, F Bealham, U Dillane, J Cannon, S O'Brien, J Butler, J Muldoon (capt). Reps: S Delahunt, D Coulson, D Robertson McCoy, G Thornbury, E Masterson, J Mitchell, C Ronaldson, N Adeolokun.

Ref - S Berry (SARU) Cheetahs v Connacht, live, Sky Sports Action, 5.35

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