JOHANNESBURG – Will Free State Cheetahs boss Franco Smith take a gamble on veteran scrumhalf star Ruan Pienaar and pick him for this Friday’s round four Currie Cup match against the Lions in Bloemfontein?
Without Pienaar in the mix, the Cheetahs have registered two big wins - against the Bulls (43-27, away) and Griquas (68-14, home) for a full-house of 10 points and top spot on the log. However, the Lions are also unbeaten in their two games which may convince Smith to pick Pienaar.
The 35-year-old former Springbok scrumhalf is back in Bloemfontein after turning out for Ulster and Montepellier in Europe and before that, the Sharks. He has signed a two-year deal to play for the Cheetahs - in the Currie Cup and Pro 14 - and has never worn the senior Cheetahs jersey, having joined the Sharks straight after school.
His experience, knowledge and ability to play in a number of backline positions will be a big boost for the Free State side, especially following the departure from Bloemfontein in recent times of scrumhalves like Shaun Venter, Rudy Paige and Ruben de Haas. Besides Tian Meyer, who is the official team captain but currently nursing a hamstring niggle, coach Smith’s other scrumhalf options are rookies Dian Badenhorst and Rewan Kruger, none of whom have much senior experience.