Vodacom Super Rugby
Smith back to lead Cheetahs
Juan Smith (Gallo Images)
Bloemfontein - They say one man does not necessarily make a team, but when it comes to the Cheetahs, things work a bit differently.
This is why, after they lost their opener against the Sharks in Durban, the Super Rugby clouds were hovering above Bloemfontein in a dark imposing fashion. All until today that is.
The return of captain Juan Smith to the starting line-up could not come at a better time for the Cheetahs, who have been struggling with a number of key injuries and face the defending champion Bulls in the key Friday night clash of Round two of the competition.
Smith may not be a superman, but in terms of the Cheetahs he is the talisman who inspires them to greater heights. With him they are a tough side to beat, without him a significant difference in leadership can be seen.
So there would have been a sigh of relief all across Central South Africa when Naka Drotske announced he would take up the captaincy again.
With stand-in skipper Adriaan Strauss injured, and the possibility of a young and inexperienced captain as replacement, Drotske won’t be the only one hoping Smith can weave his magic when the Bulls arrive.
Smith’s return is one of three changes to the team, as he replaces Phillip van der Walt on the side of the scrum and takes the captaincy back from Strauss. Ryno Barnes comes in for Strauss at hooker with veteran Skipper Badenhorst on the bench to cover the hooking position.
The other change comes at lock, where the Cheetahs pair are to face a baptism of fire against the Bok lock pairing of Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha. Ex-Bull Wilhelm Steenkamp will line up alongside Waltie Vermeulen with Francois Uys dropping to the bench.
Steenkamp spent a few seasons studying under Matfield and Friday night will be his first chance to try and prove that the student can also become the master.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Philip Burger, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Ryno Benjamin, 10 Naas Olivier 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 Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Skipper Badenhorst, 17 Kobus Calldo, 18 Francois Uys, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Riaan Viljoen.