Duanne the answer at 8?

Cheetahs loose forward Duanne Vermeulen will play at No 8 in Friday’s warm-up match against the Sharks.

The 21-year-old was a standout in last year’s Currie Cup, and at the time coach Naka Drotske told this website he’d be reluctant to select Juan Smith at No 7 even if the World Cup-winning blindside had been available for the domestic play-offs. The return of Smith seemed to signal the sidelining of Vermeulen, but the former Pumas player could emerge as the Cheetahs premier No 8 in the Super 14.

Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie believes the move has great potential, especially under the new laws. The friendly between the Stormers and Boland showcased the space around the scrum and how the No 8 is such an important attacking player. Fourie told keo.co.za Vermeuen is well equipped to fulfill this role.

“Duanne is a very talented player and I think he’ll be very effective in this position given the new rules. There’s so much more space at scrum time, and aside from being a very strong ball carrier he’s very quick,” he said. “His good ball-skills help him to get away those little offloads and he can link well with the backs.”

Fourie confirmed Darron Nell is also in contention for the No 8 position having had a strong game in Friday’s trial. Nell, however, is a different sort of player and may be better utilised for matches when a more direct approach is required.

Jacques-Louis Potgieter will start this match at flyhalf after playing for the Cheetahs B side last Friday. Drotske has faith in his general play, but at the moment Barnard’s kicking is seen as a valuable asset. After Friday, the Cheetahs management will have a better idea of who to start against the Lions on 16 February.

“We gave Conrad Barnard a run in the Cheetahs A side last week, so Jacques-Louis was always going to get a start against the Sharks,” said Fourie. “This can’t be strictly viewed as our strongest team, as there are still a few decisions left to be made.

“At 10, 11 and 13 there are still questions we hope will be answered after Friday. JW Jonker will play at 13 for 45-50 minutes against the Sharks before we give Hendrik Meyer an opportunity.”

New Zealand import Joel Iggo is on a one-month trial with the Cheetahs, but has received few opportunities of late because of injury.

Cheetahs- 15 Hennie Daniller; 14 Eddie Fredericks, 13JW Jonker, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Gavin Passens; 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Noel Oelschig; 8 Duanne Vermeulen, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Barend Pieterse, 4 Rory Duncan, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.
Subs: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Kobus Calldo, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 David de Villiers, 20 Kabamba Floors, 21 Darron Nell, 22 Tobie Botes, 23 Herkie Kruger, 24 Hendrik Meyer, 25 Jongi Nokwe, 26 Howard Noble.