The return of Springbok veteran scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar as captain is a massive boost for the Cheetahs, said coach Hawies Fourie on Monday.
The Cheetahs face the Sharks in a Preparation Series match in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.
Pienaar returns to the starting lineup after playing off the bench in their previous game against the Stormers in Cape Town, having recovered from a knee injury. He takes the reins in place of lock Carl Wegner.
“Ruan controlled the game well in that last 10 to 15 minutes against the Stormers,” said Fourie. “To have Ruan back is good for the team, his leadership and game management is outstanding, and what he brings to the team will be important.”
Malcolm Jaer also returns on the wing, while Aidon Davis replaces Jeandre Rudolph (calf injury) at No 8.
Foure has also rotated his props, while Dries Swanepoel replaces Chris Smit at centre, who’ll play next to the experienced Frans Steyn.
“It helps to have important players in vital positions and Frans is such a player… he knows when to kick and when to play,” said Fourie.
“Sometimes we have a tendency to overplay, but then he will take control and get us in the other team’s territory again,” said Fourie.
Meanwhile, former Junior Boks and Stormers flyhalf Brandon Thomson and former Sharks lock Jean Drotste have been picked on the bench and could make their Cheetahs debuts.
Cheetahs: Clayton Blommetjies, Malcolm Jaer, Dries Swanepoel, Frans Steyn, Rosko Specman, Reinhardt Fortuin, Ruan Pienaar (capt), Aidon Davis, George Cronje, Andisa Ntsila, Rynier Bernardo, Carl Wegner, Khutha Mchunu, Wilmar Arnoldi, Cameron Dawson. Bench: Marnus van der Merwe, Conraad van Vuuren, Aranos Coetzee, Jean Drotste, Oupa Mohoje, Brandon Thomson, Tian Meyer, Chris Smit.