Cheetahs coach Franco Smith on Thursday named just one change to his team for Saturday’s Currie Cup final against the Blue Bulls in Bloemfontein.
Springbok hopeful and loosehead Ox Nche picked up a knee injury in the 55-17 walkover over defending champions the Lions last weekend and had been struggling the entire week with the injury.
And while he has recovered to be named in the squad, Smith decided as a precaution to rather name Nche on the bench and to start with Charles Marais, while Nche and Conrad van Vuuren will provide the prop impact in the second half.
Two of the big heroes of the Cheetahs unbeaten campaign in centre Nico Lee and flank Paul Schoeman have recovered sufficiently from minor ankle injuries to be included in the starting lineup.
This is the Cheetahs first home final since 2007 when they edged the Lions 20-18 and their first final since 2009 when the Blue Bulls beat them 36-24 at Loftus after the Cheetahs scored a shock win over the Sharks the previous weekend in the semifinals.
It is also the Blue Bulls’ first final since that 2009 triumph when they raced into an early 24-0 lead before the Cheetahs started fighting back.
Before 2009 the two teams were also involved in three straight finals from 2004 to 2006. While the Bulls won in 2004 by 42-31, the Cheetahs shocked them 29-25 in 2005, while in 2006 the game ended in a 28-28 draw and the cup was shared, the last time it happened after Saru decided the cup would never be shared in the future again.
Cheetahs: Clayton Blommetjies, Sergeal Petersen, Francois Venter (capt), Nico Lee, Raymond Rhule, Niel Marais, Shaun Venter, Niell Jordaan, Uzair Cassiem, Paul Schoeman, Reniel Hugo, Justin Basson, Aranos Coetzee, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Charles Marais
Bench: Jacques du Toit, Ox Nche, Conrad van Vuuren, Armandt Koster, Henco Venter, Tian Meyer, Fred Zeilinga, Rayno Benjamin.