Cheetahs sweat on Jongi

Jongi Nokwe is back at training but the Cheetahs management have indicated he may miss the opening game against the Lions.

Nokwe returned from injury in Friday’s warm-up fixture against the Bulls. The Springbok winger, who scored a record four tries against Australia last year, broke down shortly before half-time with what the medical staff have confirmed as a hand injury.

Assistant coach Hawies Fourie told Nokwe is touch and go at present.

“We took him off after he hurt his hand as a precaution. He trained with us on Monday morning, but we will have to keep close tabs on his injury,” said Fourie.

“At this stage it looks like he’ll need another week or two before he’s ready to play.”

Nokwe had very few opportunities against the Bulls, but his inclusion for the Ellis Park opener would be an undoubted boost to the central franchise, especially on attack.

Fourie said he was satisfied with the performance of the backs in the two warm-ups, and that the starting backline, provided Nokwe is fit, has already been picked.

Tewis de Bruyn will partner Meyer Bosman at halfback while Jacques-Louis Potgieter and Corne Uys will comprise the starting midfield. Winger Danwel Demas and fullback Hennie Daniller are set join Nokwe in the back-three. If Nokwe fails to recover, Fabian Juries will slot in on the left wing.

“There are still a few things to work on, but I am happy with the way the backline is going at the moment,” said Fourie. ” Meyer Bosman is finding his feet again at flyhalf, and Jacques-Louis had a very good game at 12 against the Bulls.

“Corne Uys played well against Griquas and in the last 25 minutes against the Bulls. We also have plenty of depth at wing, so there is plenty to work with.”

Fourie commended the defensive effort of the Cheetahs, an area that’s been the franchise’s major shortfall in previous competitions. Where there is a worry is up front, as the Cheetahs forwards failed to play to their potential against the Bulls.

“We made a lot of errors on attack and especially at the breakdown in the first half. There’s a lot to improve on.

“On the other hand, there are a few guys putting their hands up. Bees Roux is pushing for a place in the front row while Wayne van Heerden is another good option at lock. It will also be hard to keep Hendro Scholtz out of the back row if he keeps playing like he did on Friday.

“So as far as the forwards are concerned, Naka [Drotske] will have some tough calls to make in the next two weeks.”

Apart from Nokwe, the Cheetahs centre-pairing of Potgieter and Uys are carrying minor niggles. Uys was the more serious concern but X-rays have ruled out a fracture to his thumb and he and Potgieter should be back at training on Tuesday.

By Jon Cardinelli