Bloemfontein – Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske believes the Lions' hunger for Super Rugby will make them a dangerous prospect in their opening match in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
“It is good to have them back, but they will be a dangerous team, there is no doubt about that,” Drotske said on Tuesday.
“South African derbies in the competition are always important and also very risky. We've seen the underdogs beating the home side on quite a few occasions in the past so we are well aware of the threat they pose.”
Drotske named a full-strength side with Springbok flyhalf Johan Goosen making a return to the side after a long injury layoff, while Bulls recruit Francois Venter will receive a starting berth at centre.
Goosen suffered knee ligament damage before the side's match against the Waratahs early in the season.
Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane has been named on the bench with Caylib Oosthuizen being named in the starting XV.
“Trevor will definitely play in the second half against the Lions as an impact player,” Drotske said.
“We gave Caylib the start based on the fact that he was the better of the two in the warm-up games.
“It is purely a decision made on merit and gives Trevor the opportunity to come on in the second half and show that he wants to start in the next game.”
Flanker Boom Prinsloo has been selected for the run-on side, while former Bulls loose forward Jean Cook could make an appearance off the bench.
“Boom played very well in the warm-up game against the Pumas,” the Cheetahs coach said.
“He made a couple of crucial turnovers on the ground and we will need that sort of thing against the Lions.
“They 1/8the Lions 3/8 like to attack from the wider channels and if we can slow down their possession and turn it over, that will definitely benefit us.
“That being said, flanker is one of the positions we are fortunate enough to have a lot of depth in and Jean will certainly get game time on Saturday.”
Cheetahs team: Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Johann Sadie, Francois Venter, Raymond Rhule, Johan Goosen, Shaun Venter, Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, Boom Prinsloo, Francois Uys, Lood de Jager, Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: Ryno Barnes, Trevor Nyakane, Maks van Dyk, Ligtoring Landman, Jean Cook, Sarel Pretorius, Elgar Watts, Rayno Benjamin. – Sapa