Sport / Rugby

Heinz Schenk
3 minute read
19 Feb 2017
1:18 pm

Lacking top-level class? Cheetahs hope to surprise a few

Heinz Schenk

Franco Smith's men are the Currie Cup champions but history shows that doesn't necessarily translate into Super Rugby success.

Sergeal Petersen became a Springbok on the back of his performances in 2016. He'll hope to emulate that. Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images.

The Cheetahs can draw on the example of the Lions for this year’s Super Rugby campaign.

After being crowned Currie Cup champions in 2015, the Johannesburg-based franchise went on to finish runners-up in last year’s tournament.

Also read: The thin blue line: How the Stormers shape up

However, the Lions also did so in 2011 and got relegated in 2012’s Super Rugby edition.

Comparisons are maybe then not appropriate.

Coach Franco Smith will hope his team can build on the Currie Cup success of last year but question marks over the class of his squad remains.

Fullbacks: Clayton Blommetjies, Ryno Eksteen

Clayton Blommetjies suddenly seemed to find his feet in the Currie Cup, putting all his wrongdoings in Super Rugby behind him.

Hopefully, that’s a good sign.

There’s also the plan to perhaps re-tread Raymond Rhule as a 15.

Former Province rookie Ryno Eksteen has been signed as a flyhalf but could find his niche at fullback.

Verdict: Could punch above their weight

Wings: Sergeal Petersen, Raymond Rhule

If they continue 2016’s form, this pair will continue to thrill.

Others bracketed in other positions could help out should the need arise.

Verdict: Potentially brilliant

Centres: Francois Venter, Nico Lee, William Small-Smith, Rayno Benjamin, Clinton Swart, Michael van der Spuy.

Francois Venter would walk into any other franchise’s starting line-up as has influenced Nico Lee to such an extent that he’s become a bit of a sensation.

William Small-Smith could also be top-class if he stays injury-free.

There’s reliable back-up though the newbie Clinton Swart will probably be used as a utility back.

Verdict: Jewel in the crown

Flyhalves: Niel Marais, Fred Zeilinga

The burly Niel Marais doesn’t fit the image of a top-level flyhalf but he’s mightily effective in the Cheetahs’ system.

On this day, Fred Zeilinga can also be influential.

Verdict: Willing performer that lack the highest-class

Eighthmen: Niell Jordaan, Henco Venter

Both these rookies know Smith very well from their days at the Shimlas – where they won the Varsity Cup – and will be keen to make the step up.

Don’t be surprised if they, well, surprise, but some of the other flankers could shift and stake a claim.

Verdict: Need to prove themselves … quickly

Flankers: Oupa Mohoje, Uzair Cassiem, Boom Prinsloo, Paul Schoeman, Hilton Lobberts, Armandt Koster

This group of loose-forwards are arguably the most underrated in South Africa.

It’s actually interesting to realise that three of them – Oupa Mohoje, Uzair Cassiem and Hilton Lobberts – are Springboks.

And then there’s plucky, dependable performers like Paul Schoeman and Boom Prinsloo.

The Cheetahs certainly will pin much of their hopes on this department.

Verdict: Can certainly keep up with the best

 Locks: Francois Uys, Carl Wegner, Reniel Hugo, Justin Basson, Dennis Visser

With Francois Uys and Carl Wegner at the helm, the Cheetahs had the most consistent lineout jumpers in recent years.

But their game-plan has evolved under Smith and the team might possibly be better served by choosing more dynamic, all-round players like Reniel Hugo and Justin Basson.

Dennis Visser, a brilliant junior at the Bulls, will also be itching to show his worth.

Verdict: Interesting possibilities

Props: Ox Nche, Danie Mienie, Charles Marais, Elandre Huggett, Tom Botha, Aranos Coetzee

The Cheetahs have an eye for recruiting underrated men in the front row and they’ve continued that tradition with Charles Marais and Danie Mienie.

Yet it’s the young but powerful Ox Nche that should have everyone buzzing.

He’s already been compared to his legendary namesake (in Afrikaans) Os du Randt.

What a salivating thought…

Verdict: Underestimate them at your peril

Hookers: Torsten van Jaarsveld, Jacques du Toit, Joseph Dweba

Since his 2015 World Cup campaign with Namibia, Torsten van Jaarsveld has developed into a classy performer.

But it’s the players in the pipeline that raise some question marks.

Verdict: Thin

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