Bloemfontein – Free State Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské has made four changes to his starting line up, bringing in his two Springboks and two stalwarts for their all important Currie Cup game against the Blue Bulls Saturday in the Free State stadium in Bloemfontein.
“We expect a huge physical battle and a big challenge from the Bulls in the scrums,” Drotske said on Wednesday.
“A guy like Schalk van der Merwe has really put up his hand in the other players' absence and can still be utilised as an impact player.”
The Cheetahs needed a victory or a bonus point to ensure they qualified for the semi-finals and against a Bulls side which would also be bolstered by their returning Springboks.
It came as no surprise when Drotské included his two Bok front rowers, Adriaan Strauss and Coenie Oosthuizen, both playing their first Currie Cup games of the season.
Strauss replaced the injured Hercu Liebenberg, while Oosthuizen came in for Schalk van der Merwe who was relegated to the replacement bench.
“It is comforting to have guys like Adriaan and Coenie back. They will partner with Trevor Nyakane to form an all Springbok front row against the Bulls.”
The coach also relegated upcoming youngster Teboho Mohoje to the replacement bench and brought in Super Rugby regular Philip van der Walt after he showed last week against Griquas he had fully recovered from injury.
Winger Piet Lindeque would also play from the bench with Rayno Benjamin coming into the starting line up in the final change.
“Philip is a very physical player, especially on defence. We know that the Bulls will throw everything at us, with regards to physicality, and so we need Philip in the run-on side.
“That being said, Teboho has really played some good rugby and is a guy we believe will play at top level one day. He is also good as a impact player, therefore, we will start with Philip and bring him on later in the game.”
Benjamin would get his first start since recovering from injury, and Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie said he was always likely to be a first choice player, had he not been injured.
“Rayno had a very good Super Rugby competition. Piet is more of a centre and Rayno will always have played above him if injury did not prevent it,” Fourie said.
The Cheetahs side: Hennie Daniller, Rayno Benjamin, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Rhule, Elgar Watts, Sarel Pretorius, Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, Boom Prinsloo, Lood de Jager, Francois Uys, Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements: AJ le Roux, Schalk van der Merwe, Teboho Mohoje, Freddie Ngoza, Piet van Zyl, Piet Lindeque. Willie du Plessis. – Sapa