The Cheetahs hope to have Juan Smith, WP Nel and Skipper Badenhorst available for their Currie Cup opener against Western Province on Saturday.
Last year’s losing finalists are confident ahead of their home clash against Province this weekend after an impressive 45-7 win against the Border Bulldogs last Friday. However, they are suffering injuries to their pack as captain Smith (groin), tighthead prop Nel (wrist), hookers Badenhorst (calf) and Adriaan Strauss (shoulder), lock Barend Pieterse (Achilles tendon) and flank Frans Viljoen (arm) are all currently sidelined.
Smith was granted compassionate leave for the Boks’ Tri-Nations away leg because he didn’t have much time off after his father’s death during the Super 14 but he will be available to play for the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup. The flank recently underwent groin surgery but there is a chance he will recover in time for Saturday’s match.
‘We hope to have Juan, WP and Skipper back in time,’ Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie told keo.co.za. ‘Although Western Province have lost Schalk Burger, Andries Bekker and Francios Louw because of Bok duty, they still have a formidable pack. We will need our best players available and take them on up front.
‘In the backline, Province have lost key players like Bryan Habana, Peter Grant and Jaque Fourie, but they have the reserve players who can easily fill in. Willem de Waal is a quality flyhalf while Tim Whitehead has shown impressive signs at centre and should do well.
‘We are looking to start off on a winning note, unlike last season where we lost our first four games. The guys looked good in our pre-season win against the Bulldogs. [Prop] Coenie Oosthuizen did well scoring two tries. [Flank] Kabamba Floors, [fullback] Hennie Daniller, [flyhalf] Louis Strydom and [centre] Meyer Bosman also impressed.’
Fourie admitted that losing their Griquas’ charges after the Super 14 will be a setback.
‘Guys like Sarel Pretorius, Naas Olivier, Riaan Viljoen and Bjorn Basson will be a big loss. There was a stage in the Super 14 where we had more Griquas backs in our squad than Free State backs because of injuries,’ said Fourie.
‘But we have [scrumhalf] Tewis de Bruyn back from injury and Tertius Carse will back him up. Louis Strydom has the ability to fill in for Naas. MJ Mentz will boost our wing ranks while we are still deciding whether to sign Shandre Frolick, who’s still on a trial basis.’
By Gareth Duncan