The Vodacom Cheetahs announced their squad for the 2008 Super 14 a few days ago. Let’s have a look at the options they have available to them.
As is usually the case, the Cheetahs have been hit pretty hard by off-season player losses. A number of stalwarts, including Os du Randt, Jannie du Plessis, Ollie le Roux, Corniel van Zyl, Willem de Waal and Philip Burger will not be available to them this season. Last year’s Super 14 coach, Rassie Erasmus, has also jumped ship, leaving Naka Drotske in charge. Now, we all know the latter did pretty bloody well to bring home the Currie Cup in his first season in charge. Rassie also did that, yet found Super Rugby to be a little more taxing.
Naka has some pretty good guys to choose from, though. Let’s have a look…
In the front row, things are going to be interesting. Any team that loses Os, Jannie, Ollie and CJ (out injured for the first few weeks) is likely to be a little unsettled. Wian du Preez and Kobus Calldo will be the first choice 1 and 3 respectively. The latter is a highly-rated scrummager, while there are questions around the technique of the former. That said, with the fiery Richardt Strauss between them, they should present a formidable obstacle in the scrums. Drotkse even has the option of picking Strauss’s bulkier cousin, Adriaan, if more weight is needed. Bees Roux and former Shark Ronnie Uys are the back up props. They are both pretty green, but I’m sure Dougie Heymans will turn them into true machines in no time at all.
At lock, the first-choice pairing of Rory Duncan and Barend Pieterse will do fine. The cupboard is looking pretty bare in terms of back-up options, though, with David de Villiers the only established lock option. Flip van der Merwe is out with a rib injury, meaning that the journeyman Wayne van Heerden, a more natural blindside flank, is down as the fourth lock. Any number of the bigger Cheetahs loosies can always slot in, at a pinch, but one feels they really are going into this competition a big man short. Hopefully van der Merwe won’t be out for too much longer.
It’s in the back row where the real depth at the Cheetahs franchise becomes apparent. They have option aplenty here, with the best flanker in the world, Juan Smith leading the charge (and captaining the side). Floors and Brüssow are both fine open-side options, although strangely enough, there is no spot for Hendro Scholtz, as he is currently out injured again. Darron Nel and Duanne Vermeuluen (particularly the latter) are players who should be expected to have a huge impact this year. Griquas stalwart Heinrish Stride and newcomer Frans Viljoen are also in the mix, but don’t expect to see much variation from the incredibly potent first choice trio of Brüssow, Smith and Vermeulen. I mean, why would you want to?
So, the ‘Tahs are looking menacing up front as always, but you have to concede that their tight five has a slightly softer edge than it did last year. Expect to see a big difference when CJ and the returning warriors start to come into the squad around week 4, though.
In the backs, it’s not looking nearly as good. Tewis de Bruyn is injured and Michael Claassens has left, leaving Falie Oelschig as the only experienced scrummie in the squad. Tobie Botes is the understudy and he seems to be another unproven youngster from Kimberley. At least he is a Lord of the Rings fan…
At flyhalf, the options are Conrad Barnard, Herkie Kruger and Jacques-Louis Potgieter and I think it’s fair to say that the former two have never quite taken the step up from Currie Cup rugby. Potgieter moves out of the large and looming shadow of Liefling at Loftus and we are all keen to see exactly what sort of a flyhalf the former Affies boy can be, given the game time. He’s certainly sturdily built!
Meyer Bosman will probably be used mostly at centre, where the picking seem slim indeed. In Bosman, Hendrik Meyer and even Herkie Kruger, they have enough guys that can do the job at 12, all in different ways. Certainly Hendrik Meyer is one who would like to repeat his barnstorming antics of a few years ago. Not since Trevor Halstead (and dare we say Dries Scholtz) have we seen a more direct player at 12. When it works, it works, though, although I wonder what effect the ELV’s will have on this style of play. At thirteen, they are alarmingly light, though, with only the relatively untested JW Jonker available, before they have to start playing guys out of position.
There are good, fast wings aplenty, as always, with new signings Howard Noble and Jongi Nokwe determined to push the established start, Eddie Fredericks and Gavin Passens all the way. Fredericks in particular is, to my mind, a very underrated player. A real thinking winger with a nose for the line. Fullback again looks a worry, with ex-Bull and Bolander Hennie Danniler the only specialist named in the position, at least until Bevin Fortuin recovers sufficiently to come in. Expect to see Fredericks doubling as a fullback until then.
So, to be perfectly frank, I don’t see enough firepower in the backs for the Cheetahs to seriously challenge this year. They remain a dangerous side, though, particularly when underestimated and will always give a good account of themselves at home. Let’s hope they prove me wrong and do better than the bottom 6 finish I predict.
The full squad is:
Backs: Hennie Daniller, Eddie Fredericks, Gavin Passens, Jongi Nokwe, Howard Noble, JW Jonker, Hendrik Meyer, Meyer Bosman, Herkie Kruger, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Conrad Barnard, Falie Oelschig, Tobie Botes.
Forwards: Duanne Vermeulen, Darron Nell, Frans Viljoen, Juan Smith (capt), Heinrich Brüssow, Kabamba Floors, Heinrich Stride, Rory Duncan, Barend Pieterse, David de Villiers, Wayne van Heerden, Wian du Preez, Kobus Calldo, Bees Roux, Ronnie Uys, Adriaan Strauss, Richardt Strauss.Tweet