Vodacom Super Rugby
Cheetahs count on Smith factor
Juan Smith (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - The Cheetahs will be banking on the "Juan Smith factor" when they host the Bulls on Friday in what will be their first Vodacom Super Rugby match at home this year.
Smith has been one of the most consistent players for both the Springboks and his provincial side in recent times and his presence is sure to lift the Free State squad after they failed to get their campaign off to a solid start.
"Having Juan back always lifts the team as we all know that he is both a great leader and player," Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske said on Thursday.
Drotske spoke of a proud record his men have at home, but when taking into consideration that the Bulls have won their last 10 Super matches in the City of Roses, it might take more than one man to change their fortunes.
In last year's contest, the Cheetahs got off to a perfect start, scoring in the opening minute of the game, but they were eventually beaten 34-51 as the Bulls staged a brilliant comeback.
Having Smith back is a tremendous boost to the team, but it will be interesting to see just how much they will miss the presence of Adriaan Strauss in the front row.
Strauss fractured his hand in last week's loss to the Sharks and will be out for at least six weeks.
He has been replaced by Ryno Barnes with veteran Skipper Badenhorst moving in as cover on the bench.
Earlier this week, Bulls captain Victor Matfield tried his best to down-play the intense rivalry which exists between the teams saying that there is no such thing as an easy match in the competition.
"I must say Super Rugby is always tough, and I really don’t feel that derbies are harder than playing the Blues or playing the Crusaders," said Matfield.
One of the traditional battles between these sides are the set-pieces and both coaches agree that a solid performance there will be crucial in securing the win.
The Cheetahs were, however, found wanting at scrum-time against the Sharks, but Bulls coach Frans Ludeke was not blinded by this.
"Every weekend’s game is on its own merit and this is a new challenge and they will regroup and pride themselves at scrum-time," said the Bulls mentor.
"We also conceded a few penalties there (at the scrum) and want to step up to create a good platform to attack from."
The lineouts should also provide a number of memorable moments and it will be a case of the student trying to show the master how its done.
While Matfield is considered to be the best lineout-lock in the business, the Cheetahs' Wilhelm Steenkamp spent enough time under the Springbok leader's wing to know what he is in for.
Both sides have some very competent kickers in their ranks, yet it remains to be seen how often kicks from hand will be directed at the touchline.
The battle between the big ball carriers in this teams should also provide for some top-notch entertainment.
Cheetahs v Bulls, Bloemfontein - 19:10
Hennie Daniller, 14. Philip Burger, 13. Robert Ebersohn, 12. Andries Strauss,
11. Ryno Benjamin, 10. Naas Olivier (vice-captain), 9. Sarel Pretorius, 8.
Kabamba Floors, 7. Juan Smith (captain), 6. Frans Viljoen, 5. Wilhelm Steenkamp,
4. Waltie Vermeulen, 3. WP Nel, 2. Rayno Barnes, 1. Coenie
Substitutes: 16. Skipper Badenhorst, 17. Kobus Calldo, 18.
Francois Uys, 19. Ashley Johnson, 20. Tewis de Bruyn, 21. Sias Ebersohn, 22.
15. Zane Kirchner, 14. Gerhard van den
Heever, 13. Jaco Pretorius, 12. Wynand Olivier, 11. Bjorn Basson, 10. Morne
Steyn, 9. Fourie du Preez, 8. Pierre Spies, 7. Dewald Potgieter, 6. Deon
Stegmann, 5. Victor Matfield (captain), 4. Bakkies Botha, 3. Werner Kruger, 2.
Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1. Gurthro Steenkamp
Substitutes: 16. Derick Kuun, 17. Rossouw de Klerk, 18. Flip van der Merwe,
19. Danie Rossouw, 20. Ruan Snyman, 21. Francois Brummer, 22. Stephan