Get the Sport24 daily newsletter delivered to your Inbox!


    Super Rugby preview: Cheetahs

    2016-02-26 18:49
    Lood de Jager (Gallo Images)

    Lloyd Burnard - Sport24

    Cape Town - This season sees the Cheetahs enter Super Rugby with a new coach for the first time in eight years as Franco Smith takes charge. 

    He replaces Naka Drotske, signifying the dawn of a new era in Bloemfontein. 

    The Cheetahs are fortunate in that they avoid the New Zealand sides in the group stages, but they do have tough South African opposition in their conference in the form of the Bulls and Stormers. 

    Not much is expected of the men in orange in 2016, but they have shown consistently in recent years that on their day they can upset anyone. 

    Fans will remember 2013 all to well when the Cheetahs shocked to earn a playoff in Canberra against the Brumbies, only to go out after an 80th minute missed conversion from Riaan Smit.

    Expect a few upsets along the way, and lots of tries at both ends.

    Coach: Franco Smith

    Captain: Francois Venter

    Last season: 5th in SA conference, 12th overall

    Grouped with: Stormers, Bulls, Sunwolves

    Potential strengths: It may sound harsh, but on the surface there don't appear to be many strengths to this Cheetahs side outside of a few quality individuals - Lood de Jager the obvious example. The Cheetahs are a side that likes to throw the ball around, and they are entertaining to watch even if they are not always effective. Fred Zeilinga has joined from the Sharks and he will add a new dimension to the attack, and if he can get the backline going then the Cheetahs do have some accomplished finishers. You never quite know what to expect from the Free Staters, and their ability to win against anyone - home or away - on any day is perhaps their biggest attribute.

    Potential weaknesses: Defence. For all of their attacking intent under Drotske, the Cheetahs have been woeful defensively for the past few seasons. It is the surely the area that has commanded the most attention during pre-season, and they will have to be far tighter if they are to show more consistency in 2016.

    Players to watch: In De Jager, the Cheetahs boast South Africa's 2015 player of the year. The towering lock will be a major weapon for Smith this season, while in the loose-forwards a lot will also be expected of Boom Prinsloo.  

    Realistic aim: The Cheetahs are not expected to be around after the group stages, but they will be looking to give a good account of themselves. Finishing ahead of the Kings and Sunwolves in the South African group will be the first priority. 

    Players in: Aranos Coetzee (Brive), Sias Ebersohn (Force), Neil Rautenbach (Stormers), Paul Schoeman (Kings), William Small-Smith (Bulls), Fred Zeilinga (Sharks).

    Players out: Dolph Botha (Shimlas), Reiner Botha (Shimlas), Francois Brummer (Bulls), Heinrich Brüssow (NTT Docomo), Stephan Coetzee (Griquas), Jean Cook (Zebre), Danie Dames (released), Willie du Plessis (Toulon), Carel Greeff (Kings), Cornal Hendricks (Stormers), Willie le Roux (Sharks), Caylib Oosthuizen (Kings), Coenie Oosthuizen (Sharks), Joe Pietersen (Sharks), Sarel Pretorius (Dragons), Johann Sadie (Agen), Steven Sykes (Kings), Ewald van der Westhuizen (Griquas), Elgar Watts (Kings).

    First fixture: February 26, Jaguares (h).





    What To Read Next

    Read News24’s Comments Policy

    Live Video Streaming
    Video Highlights
    Sport Talk


    23 February 2017
    • Rebels v Blues, AAMI Park 12:45
    24 February 2017
    • Highlanders v Chiefs, 10:35
    • Reds v Sharks, Suncorp Stadium 13:00
    25 February 2017
    • Sunwolves v Hurricanes, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium 08:15
    • Crusaders v Brumbies, AMI Stadium 10:35
    • Waratahs v Force, Allianz Stadium 12:45
    • Cheetahs v Lions, Toyota Stadium 17:05
    • Kings v Jaguares, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium 19:15
    • Stormers v Bulls, Cape Town 21:30


    06 August 2016
    30 July 2016
    23 July 2016
    22 July 2016
    16 July 2016
    15 July 2016
    09 July 2016
    08 July 2016
    02 July 2016
    01 July 2016
    29 May 2016
    28 May 2016
    27 May 2016
    21 May 2016
    20 May 2016
    14 May 2016
    13 May 2016
    07 May 2016
    06 May 2016
    30 April 2016
    29 April 2016
    24 April 2016
    23 April 2016
    22 April 2016
    16 April 2016
    15 April 2016
    09 April 2016
    08 April 2016
    03 April 2016
    02 April 2016
    01 April 2016
    27 March 2016
    26 March 2016
    25 March 2016
    19 March 2016
    18 March 2016
    12 March 2016
    11 March 2016
    05 March 2016
    04 March 2016
    27 February 2016
    26 February 2016

    Opinion Poll

    Jake White will leave his job as Montpellier coach next year. Where would you like to see the former Springbok coach, coach next?

    The ultimate Super Rugby quiz!

    There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.