Robert Ebersohn will make his Super 14 debut on Saturday and for the Cheetahs, facing the unbeaten Hurricanes in Bloemfontein, that is great news.
A former SA Schools, SA U20 and SA Sevens star, he is regarded as one of the brightest prospects to emerge in SA in recent years.
Rugby 365 reports that he returns from an ankle injury and could provide the spark to ignite what has been in the Super 14 so far this year, an erratic, and at times inept, Cheetahs backline. He will play at outside centre, with Lionel Mapoe reverting to right wing and Danwel Demas dropping to the replacements’ bench.
Ebersohn was a schoolboy sensation, exceptionally skilful and creative, playing SA Schools in 2007. Since then he has stayed in the spotlight with two years in the SA U20 team, also playing for the SA Sevens team in 2008 in his first year out of school and in 2009.
He was one of the stars in the Bok Sevens team which won the IRB Sevens World Series last year. The loss of Ebersohn to the Super 14 has been a big blow to coach Paul Treu’s 2010 Springbok Sevens team and a contributory factor to their struggle to compete at top level this year.
He got through the Free State Vodacom Cup game on Saturday with no problem and is now ready for the big stage.
“Robert played 60 minutes for the Free State,” said Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie, “and he says his ankle felt good”.
Lionel Mapoe is of course more comfortable – and more of an attacking threat – at wing than at outside centre.
“Robert reads play better [at 13] than Lionel because he’s played there longer,” said Fourie.
In other changes, Hennie Daniller gets a start at fullback ahead of Riaan Viljoen, who moves to the bench, Sarel Pretorius displaces Tewis de Bruyn at scrumhalf, and up front Waltie Vermeulen gets a start ahead of David de Villiers. An interesting inclusion on the bench is one Test-cap Springbok Kabama Floors.
There is no place among the replacements for Ashley Johnson, or for Robert Ebersohn’s twin brother Sias, who got six minutes off the bench against the Highlanders when he came on for Naas Olivier.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Frans Viljoen, 7 Juan Smith (captain), 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Waltie Vermeulen, 4 Nico Breedt, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 David de Villiers, 19 Kabamba Floors, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Riaan Viljoen, 22 Danwel Demas