The Currie Cup match between the Cheetahs and Griquas at Absa Park here on Friday has all the makings of a rugby thriller.
Henry Hopley writes in Volksblad that with much prestige at stake, and because of the importance of a good start to the new campaign, the neighbouring sides are expected to produce a high-class contest.
Several players will also be involved in individual duels that should delight the spectators.
The Free Staters, last year’s Currie Cup champions, are again fielding a formidable team. They have played in the past four finals, winning two and sharing the honours with the Blue Bulls in 2006.
Griquas have been up and down this season but they are invariably hard to beat when they play at home.
Missed scoring opportunities could be costly and the goal-kicking skills of the home team’s Conrad Barnard and Jacques-Louis Potgieter of the Cheetahs could make the difference.
Tos Smith, who played for Griquas in 138 matches and also did more than his share as an administrator, expects the derby to be another battle royal.
Griquas would have to play their normal game, score early and handle the pressure, Smith said on Thursday.
“It is important that the players bring back the pride in Griquas rugby,” he added
Free State were always dangerous in the first ten or fifteen minutes, Smith pointed out. However, he believes the home team have the ability to beat the champions.
Both teams are known for playing running rugby but the Griquas forwards have a chance of setting up victory because the Cheetahs will be without Springboks Juan Smith and CJ van der Linde.
Griquas: Riaan Viljoen, Gavin Passens, Lafras Uys, Herkie Kruger (capt), MJ Mentz, Conrad Barnard, Tobie Botes, Heinrich Stride, Frans Viljoen, Stefan Gerber, Jacques Lombaard, Wayne van Heerden, Bees Roux, Hans van Dyk, Albertus Buckle.
Substitutes: Dean Hopp, Stef Roberts, Cilliers Coetzer, Gareth Krause, Dougie Hellmuth, Jaco Bekker, Egon Seconds.
Cheetahs: Bevin Fortuin, Eddie Fredericks, JW Jonker, Hendrik Meyer, Jongi Nokwe, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Neil Powell, Schalk van der Merwe, Hendro Scholtz (capt), Heinrich Brüssow, Barend Pieterse, Flip van der Merwe, Kobus Calldo, Adriaan Strauss, Wian du Preez.
Substitutes: Jaco du Toit, Ronnie Uys, David de Villiers, Kabamba Floors, Jandré Blom, Chris Rossouw, Hennie Daniller.
Referee: JC Fortuin