Super Rugby round six
Foley laments Force's lost opportunity
March 24, 2013
The Cheetahs' Willie le Roux dives in to score, Western Force v Cheetahs, Super Rugby, nib Stadium, Perth, Australia, March 23, 2013
Willie Le Roux capped the Cheetahs' victory with a late try against Western Force © Getty Images
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Western Force coach Michael Foley was quick to identify his side's failure to turn possession into points as the main factor behind the 19-10 loss to the Cheetahs on Saturday night.

The hosts were dominant for much of the first half and the opening period of the second, but they claimed only a converted Winston Stanley try and a solitary penalty goal from Sias Ebersohn to show for their efforts. The visitors, meanwhile, kept themselves in the contest through Riaan Smit, who landed five three-pointers from five attempts before Willie Le Roux capitalised on a handling error from Ben McCalman to grab the match-winning try.

"I think the way we used the ball from the start wasn't good enough," Foley said. "We defended particularly well at times and I think we had to because we gave them a lot of possession to use. There were times where we were hitting the areas we wanted to and making ground and then giving away the possession too easily. We had plenty of opportunities to score throughout the game and especially in the first 20 minutes, but we kept turning the ball over."

"When we pick over the game, we'll probably be more disappointed than we are now because there were a number of things that we did do well. But you have to use your possession to an outcome. You can't have the ball for long periods of time and not get an outcome out of it."

Foley clearly felt his team had let slip the perfect opportunity to build upon last week's impressive win over the Reds and mark the opening of the new Eastern Stand at nib Stadium in style.

"That was a game we could and should have won," he said. "And that's not taking anything away from the Cheetahs. The stats show that they score a lot of points from turnovers and lineouts; they hang in there and I've got the greatest respect for them. They had two fantastic wins on the road and now a third, but we did enough in that game to show that we understood how we had to play and there were key times when we went away from things that we had done well in the previous two games.

"For what reason, we're not sure, but we recognise that and understand that that's something we'll need to work on heading into next week. You come out of this game saying that we defended extremely well early, got a lot of good turnovers and played the game strategically as we wanted to, but we didn't execute in key moments with the ball in hand. Now it's about refocusing, getting ourselves back in those situations again and understanding how to cope with them a bit better."

The Cheetahs capped a great tour with victory over Western Force (video available only in Australia)

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske, meanwhile, hailed the mental strength and resilience of his players.

"To win three in a row overseas is something that never happened to us in the past so it's a big positive," Drotske said. "And I think the biggest positive for us is winning those 50-50 games. Last year, we were in it in about six or seven of those kind of games and ended up losing them in the last four or five minutes. So to come from behind in two away games says a lot about the character of the players. It means a lot to us. Two or three years ago we hadn't won a game overseas for seven or eight years, so to win three this season is a massive positive for the team."

Drotske is quietly confident that his charges are well placed to give some of the competition's more fancied sides a run for their money.

"We knew we had a tough start against the sides that contested last year's final, in the Sharks and the Chiefs," he said. "But then we had that turnaround against the Highlanders and that meant a lot to the players. We can head home now and we've got seven of the last 11 games in Bloemfontein. Obviously it should hopefully be easier for us there, but it's a tough competition with no easy games.

"We'll be focused and start working on Tuesday for the Rebels game next weekend. In terms of the table, there's a small margin between sixth and tenth. Our goal at the start of the season was to make the finals, and we're in a good position now."

Drotske's sentiments were echoed by Cheetahs skipper Adriaan Strauss, who produced a typically all-action performance to help drive his side to victory.

"In the past, we've maybe let games like that slip," Strauss said. "So, it was a huge positive to see that one through and get the four points."We showed a lot of character and guts, especially in the last few minutes. The guys were tired as well and had to stand up, get off the deck and work hard, and I think they did that. I'm very proud of them."

The Springboks hooker sounded a note of caution in terms of his side's prospects for the remainder of the season. "There are still a lot of games left to play and we just want to build on tonight," he said. "We'll have a look at the game when we get back together on Tuesday and try and sort out the weaknesses that we had and build on the positives."

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