While the Cheetahs have a great domestic record they have struggled to find similar success in Super Rugby and this may continue in 2009.
The young side have the potential to shine in 2009 but in many of their key positions the players lack serious Super Rugby experience.
They have been dealt a major blow in 2009 with the departure of some of their most experienced players such as CJ van der Linde, Rory Duncan and Falie Oelshig, who took up offers abroad.
The Cheetahs are arguably the weakest of the South African Super 14 franchises in terms of player depth. And coach Naka Drotske has also struggled to innovate and deliver an enterprising style of play but with a youthful squad in 2009 he may give the Cheetahs the freedom to run with it.
He will be challenged even further in 2009 to fill the void left by those experienced players who opted for a bigger paycheck.
Strengths: What the Cheetahs may lack in experience they do have an abundance of youth and lots of talent especially in the backline. Wing Jonge Nokwe will be eager to show his class after starring for the Boks in 2008, while captain Juan Smith will give 100 percent week in and week out.
Weakness: The Cheetahs’ main weakness lies in the lack of depth. Players with two or three years’ experience are considered veterans at this franchise. Their usually settled back row has also been affected through the departure of Duane Vermeulen and Darron Nell.
Noteworthy signings: Corné Uys (Stormers), Trompie Nontshinga (Bulls), Piet van Zyl (Boland).
Noteworthy losses: CJ van der Linde (Leinster), Rory Duncan (Japan), Barend Pieterse (retirement), Duanne Vermeulen (Stormers), Chris Rossouw (retirement).
Coach: Due to budgetary constraints, Naka Drotské has not been able to buy any big name players which has been the franchise’s main problem in Super rugby. His other challenge will be to keep his chargers motivated after they could suffer some heavy defeats early in the competition.
Captain: Juan Smith is one of most highly rated loose forwards in South Africa, if not the world. He has made steady progress over the last few years as a player, culminating in stellar performances in the World Cup in 2007. He will be the Cheetahs’ key figure in the back row but more importantly in the pack where his combination with rookie Springbok Heinrich Brüssow should be interesting.
Player(s) to watch: Jonge Nokwe will be eager to improve on his form in 2008 after scoring seven tries in last year’s tournament. Due to the retirement of the experienced Chris Rossouw a lot will be expected of Meyer Bosman to ignite the Cheetahs backline.
2008 Position: 13th
Best finish: 10th (2006 – debut year)
Worst finish: 13th (2008)
Home Venue: Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein (capacity 40,000)
2009 Prediction: The Cheetahs have struggled to transfer their Currie Cup successes to the Super 14. Naka Drotské has lost key players and although some youngsters got their first taste of Super rugby last year, there is still a lack of experience that could leave the Cheetahs floundering at the bottom end of the competition’s standings. Prediction: 12th
Cheetahs squad: Hennie Daniller; Danwel Demas, Corné Uys, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Fabian Juries; Meyer Bosman, Tewis de Bruyn; Frans Viljoen, Juan Smith, Heinrich Brüssow, David de Villiers, Nico Breedt, Kobus Calldo, Adriaan Strauss, Wian du Preez, Richardt Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen, Wayne van Heerden, Hendro Scholtz, Sarel Pretorius, Bjorn Basson, Kabamba Floors, Trompie Nontshinga, Piet van Zyl.
Friday 13 February v Lions, away
Friday 20 February v Western Force, away
Saturday 01 March v Reds, away
Saturday 07 March v Hurricanes, away
Friday 13 March v Blues, away
Saturday 21 March v Highlanders, away
Saturday 04 April v Brumbies, home
Saturday 11 April v Sharks, home
Saturday 18 April v Chiefs, home
Saturday 25 April v Crusaders, home
Friday 01 May v Waratahs, home
Saturday 09 May v Bulls, home
Saturday 16 May v Stormers, home
Courtesy of Rugby 365Tweet