No Cheetahs for Namibian warm-up

Naka Drotske says he won’t release Free State players that have been selected for the Namibia Invitational XV.

It was announced on Thursday that five Free State players would start for the Namibia XV named to play the South African XV in Windhoek on 30 May. Centre Meyer Bosman, second-row pair David de Villiers and Nico Breedt, hooker Richardt Strauss and tighthead Kobus Calldo were all listed in the line-up, but now it looks as if coach John Williams will have to look elsewhere for players.

Drotske told keo.co.za he won’t release his players. Free State have a 10-day break before they start preparing for the match against the British & Irish Lions on 6 June. If the players were to feature in the Windhoek game, a game that amounts to a warm-up for the Boks and a last chance for fringe players to make an impression, it would affect the Cheetahs’ preparation for the Lions.

‘Naka and I had a chat about it and we both agreed it would be a bad idea,’ Hawies Fourie, the Free State assistant coach, told this website. ‘There’s not much time as it is to prepare and we really want to make a go of beating the Lions in Bloemfontein.

‘It’s difficult to know what kind of team the Lions will play against us, but these tour games are very important. We really want to beat them.’

Fourie said he was disappointed with the Cheetahs’ overall form in the Super 14 but felt encouraged by the way they had ended the season. The good news is they’ll receive a boost in the coming weeks, as flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter will return from injury and new signing Louis Strydom will also begin his stint in Bloemfontein.

‘In terms of a game plan, I think we’ll stick to what we’ve been doing in the Super 14,’ said Fourie. ‘Obviously there are areas we need to improve like our defence and ball retention, but we don’t want to change the way we play.

‘There are a few changes we’ll look to make but those will only happen in the Currie Cup.’

More good news for the Cheetahs is that promising prop Coenie Oosthuizen will be back for the tournament as will centre Robert Ebersohn. Ebersohn once his commitments to the SA U20 and the Springbok sevens teams are fulfilled.

Another former SA U19 star could be rejoining the squad albeit only next year. Wilton Pietersen was badly injured in a car accident before the Super 14 and wasn’t given much hope of returning to the game. However, the fullback will undergo another medical evaluation this September.

‘If all goes well, he could be ready to take contact in December,’ said Fourie. ‘And if he can do that, he could be back in next year’s Super 14.’

By Jon Cardinelli