Springbok flank Uzair Cassiem makes a welcome return to the Cheetahs starting line-up for the clash against the Hurricanes. Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp, BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – It just doesn’t get any easier for the out-of-sorts Cheetahs.

After conceding 50 points to the Blues in Auckland last weekend, Franco Smith’s men now have to man up to the Hurricanes, the defending champions, in Wellington on Saturday.

And their opponents are unlikely to be very friendly. Last year’s winners lost 20-12 to the Crusaders in Christchurch and will be desperate to get back on track as the competition heads towards its business end.

The Cheetahs go into the match having won just twice in 11 matches and with their backs seriously against the wall.

And they’re not even able to call on one of their better performers this season, flank Paul Schoeman, who has had to stay behind in Auckland after picking up blood clots in his legs during the flight from Johannesburg nearly two weeks ago.

Smith has again rung the changes, doing little to boost confidence in the team. This time round he has made seven alterations to his starting XV, most of them upfront.

There’s a completely new front row, Armandt Koster comes in at lock and in the loose trio, Uzair Cassiem gets a start.

At the back, Clinton Swart starts ahead of William Small-Smith, who misses out completely on the match-day 23.

The Hurricanes meanwhile are so confident of getting past the Cheetahs they have left rookie star back Jordie Barrett on the bench for this match, with his older brother Beauden shifting to fullback in his place.

Otere Black will wear the No 10 jersey.

Saturday’s match kicks off at 9.35am (SA time).

Teams for Wellington

Hurricanes: Beauden Barrett, Wes Goosen, Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Otere Black, TJ Perenara (captain), Brad Shields, Ardie Savea, Reed Prinsep, Vaea Fifita, Sam Lousi, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Ricky Riccitelli, Ben May.

Bench: Leni Apisai, Mike Kainga, Loni Uhila, Mark Abbott, Callum Gibbins, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Jordie Barrett, Ben Lam.

Cheetahs: Clayton Blommetjies, Sergeal Petersen, Francois Venter (captain), Clinton Swart, Raymond Rhule, Fred Zeilinga, Shaun Venter, Henco Venter, Oupa Mohoje, Uzair Cassiem, Carl Wegner, Armandt Koster, Johan Coetzee, Elandré Huggett, Ox Nche.

Bench: Torsten van Jaarsveld, Charles Marais, Tom Botha, Francois Uys, Niell Jordaan, Tian Meyer, Niel Marais, Ruan van Rensburg.

Independent Media