Corné Uys has been ruled out with an ankle injury which will see Lionel Mapoe moved to outside centre against the Sharks.
Backline coach Hawies Fourie told keo.co.za on Monday that Uys will be sidelined until mid-March. With Robert Ebersohn (broken leg) only expected back in the next month, the Cheetahs have no quality outside centre options in their squad.
Mapoe will be shifted to the midfield, a move Fourie is confident the wing will be able to make.
‘Lionel has had some game time at outside centre during the pre-season and he has impressed us there,’ Fourie told this website. ‘He played there against Eastern Province in the second half and started there in our last warm-up session against our second string and the Griffons.
‘He has the potential and game-breaking qualities to excel at outside centre and I believe this could be a future position for him. We will bring in Danwel Demas to fill in for him on the wing.’
Although Mapoe has been impressive on the wing, a transition to outside centre could be a good move for the 21-year-old. Closer to the action, Mapoe will get more ball in the No 13 jersey whereas he had limited opportunities out wide.
Against the Bulls, the centre combination of Uys and Meyer Bosman struggled, especially on defence. The pair looked stale on attack and missed crucial one-one tackles which resulted in tries for the defending champions.
Mapoe will strengthen the midfield defensively – as he showed against the Bulls making vital tackles on the wing – and adds a new dynamic on attack, which are two areas Fourie said they will need to improve on before their trip to Durban where they face the Sharks on Friday.
‘Considering it was our first match of the season, we are satisfied with our defensive and attacking efforts, but we have to make a step-up if we want to beat the Sharks,’ he said.
‘If you look at our stats against the Bulls, we made 85% of our tackles. The ones we missed were the tackles that mattered most, especially the one-on-ones. We have to improve on this. We will also look to put the Sharks under pressure with a rush defence.
‘We want to be more clinical on attack as well. We missed a few opportunities that we should’ve scored and with the new breakdown interpretations, I feel we can play more of an expansive game. But we have to spend more time in the opponents’ half so we can create more opportunities.
‘The Sharks also lost last weekend against the Chiefs, so both teams will be hungry for the win.’
By Gareth Duncan