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Cheetahs cooking with Goosen
Greg Growden and ESPN Staff
February 14, 2013
The Cheetahs' Johan Goosen kicks for goal, Lions v Cheetahs, Super Rugby, Coca Cola Park, Johannesburg, South Africa, February 25, 2012 in
Johan Goosen starred in 2012 before his season was cut short. © Getty Images
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The Cheetahs must finally make use of their intimidating home-ground advantage if the deepest squad in their history is not to struggle, Greg Growden writes.

Last season: 10th overall, fourth in South African conference; the Cheetahs maintained their reputation for fast-paced, high-scoring rugby, but they were on the back foot after losing their opening three matches. Things could easily have been better, however, as they lost four of seven matches they led at half-time, and seven of their 11 defeats were by seven points or less.

Key man: Johan Goosen was enjoying a mighty debut season before sustaining a shoulder injury in round 10, the fly-half scoring 145 points including three tries. He subsequently sustained a knee injury that curtailed his season after playing four Tests, but he's considered by many pundits to have replaced Morne Steyn as the Springboks No.10 and he's set to improve again in 2013.

Rising star: Cornal Hendricks is an explosive winger with great pace and power from his 189cm, 95kg frame, and he's noted as a try scorer for Currie Cup first-division champions Boland Cavaliers (27 in 67 games). He's also developing a reputation as a finisher on the IRB World Sevens circuit, and he seems to have the attributes to succeed with the Cheetahs.

Season preview: The Cheetahs will continue to play adventurous rugby, and they'll take points from wherever through Johan Goosen's goalkicking, but they lack the depth of the other traditional South African sides. Naka Drotske has spoken in the press of finally improving the side's defence, but one hopes only that the coach doesn't achieve his desires at the expense of the Cheetahs' offence.

Greg Growden's verdict: Their home ground gives them a great advantage. Bloemfontein isn't exactly Las Vegas, and opposing teams can get spooked by the eerie surroundings; it's the type of city where even rottweilers are scared to walk the streets alone. But the Cheetahs have struggled to use that in their favour, year in year out promising a lot but always deflating. They boast a reasonable line-up when their players are all available, and they are bound to surprise through the organisational skills of Johan Goosen. They say they boast their greatest depth since 2006, but they'll need it if they want to avoid another tedious season.

Tip: Fourth in South African conference. Finish: 13th overall.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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