Springbok flank Juan Smith will bolster the Cheetahs this week as he returns to the starting line-up for Saturday’s Super 14 derby against the Stormers at Newlands.
Smith was forced to miss the Cheetahs’ four-game overseas tour after suffering a knee injury against the Blues on March 1, writes Ashfak Mohamed on IOL.
Smith played for 30 minutes in last week’s impressive 29-14 victory over the Reds in Bloemfontein, making a massive impact off the bench.
Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske told the Cape Times on Tuesday that Smith was ready to start. “Juan will be the only change to the team. He will come in for Hendro Scholtz, who will go to the bench,” he said. “Juan showed that he was over the injury last week, so it is great to have him back in the team. He is the captain and a wonderful player.”
Drotske said he was relieved that the Cheetahs could finally register their first win last week against the Reds.
“I am definitely pleased with beating the Reds. We have worked hard and come a long way this season, but we have been unlucky on several occasions. So to win a game after so long was great,” he said.
The Cheetahs’ defence has been their main problem this season, with defenders falling off tackles too easily.
They have conceded 30 tries – the joint-highest in the competition with the Chiefs – but Drotske was adamant that the defensive system itself was not to blame.
“We have defended well at times, so I feel that the systems are right.
“Most of the tries scored against us came in two games, against the Blues and Crusaders, but in the rest we didn’t concede more than two tries. So it has been more a case of guys missing or falling off one-on-one tackles. But we improved on that last week and got the win,” he said.
Drotske said that the Stormers would be under tremendous pressure to win on Saturday, as they have more to play for.
“Every game in the Super 14 is difficult, but we have nothing to lose. The pressure is on them. They came back well on tour after a bad start and are now playing for a semi-final,” he said.
“But they are a very good team and don’t have any real weaknesses. Their defence has been solid with a guy like Brendan Venter there, while they have been playing 15-man rugby and using the width of the field well.”
Drotske will come up against his old coach in Rassie Erasmus, who he served under as a player and team manager at the Cheetahs.
Does he have a point to prove? “No, not at all,” said Drotske. “The media is making it a personal thing, but I think Rassie is a great coach. I have lots of respect for him and we are still good friends. It will be a great game on Saturday. May the best man win.Tweet