Cape Town - Cheetahs coach Franco Smith has explained his decisions at flyhalf for their Super Rugby opener against the Jaguares in Bloemfontein on Friday.
Fred Zeilinga will start in the No 10 jersey for the Cheetahs, with Niel Marais preferred ahead of Sias Ebersohn as the reserve flyhalf.
Ebersohn returned to the Cheetahs last year after spending a few seasons at the Western Force in Australia, but will sit out the first week of Super Rugby action.
Smith said it was important for Zeilinga, who joined Free State from the Sharks last year, to build on the confidence he gained in their pre-season outings.
“From the beginning of the season, Fred has played about 30 minutes in each game and he looked really sharp. I want to give him a bit (more) game time under his belt, so it was important to start him, rather than playing him off the bench,” Smith said at a press conference in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.
As his back-up flyhalf, Smith opted for Marais, a player who starred for him during Shimlas’ victorious Varsity Cup campaign last year.
“I think it was a tough choice. All three of them are playing really good rugby. I’m very happy with what Sias brought in the warm-up game against the Kings. He really played well, Niel Marais played excellent,” said Smith.
Smith opted for a six/two split between forwards and backs on the bench - a decision which played a part in Marais getting the nod ahead of Ebersohn.
“It was a difficult choice between Niel and Sias, but Niel also covers 12 (inside centre) for us and Sias 15 (fullback), so seeing that it’s a different type of bench, it was important to have a bit of utility there, so it was basically down to that.
“If I went five-three (forwards/backs split), then Sias would probably have been in the mix as well, but because it’s a six-two bench split I decided to go for Niel.”
Friday’s clash at the newly-named Toyota Stadium kicks off at 19:00.
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais
Substitutes: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Paul Schoeman, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Niel Marais
15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Jerónimo De la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Baez, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (captain), 1 Lucas Noguera
Substitutes: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Matias Orlando