Cape Town - Free State Cheetahs coach Franco Smith believes the playing surface at Loftus Versfeld is the best in the world to play on.
Smith’s Cheetahs side tackle the Blue Bulls in a Currie Cup match there on Friday night where they will attempt to redeem themselves after losing 57-19 at home to the same opponents earlier in the season.
It’s a ground where flyhalves thrive on and the Cheetahs have again entrusted Fred Zeilinga with the starting pivot role.
Zeilinga, who recently joined the Cheetahs from the Sharks, has started in the No 10 jersey in their last three matches, keeping Sias Ebersohn and Niel Marais behind him in the pecking order.
After struggling to stamp his authority at the Sharks, Zeilinga joined the Cheetahs before this year’s Currie Cup and has since improved his game.
Smith, though, does not want to put too much pressure on his pivot ahead of the clash at Loftus.
“Fred must just keep on adding to the side and not worry too much about being the main act. He is not and I want to make that clear. I don’t want to put any extra pressure on all the decision-makers and role players,” Smith said at a press conference in Bloemfontein earlier this week.
“I’ll never criticise decision-making, because I was in that role for so long. We will just try and equip him to make the right decision as much as he can, so I’m trying to take as much pressure as I can off him.
“He (Zeilinga), Sias and Niel Marais are all players that thrive on confidence... so he must just play, he’s been around the block and he must just settle in that position now.”
Smith, a former Springbok flyhalf, feels the conditions at Loftus would be ideal for Zeilinga to gain more confidence as the Cheetahs’ No 1 flyhalf.
“There’s not really much new. It’s going to be a 10 degrees night, with 12km/h wind... it’s going to be perfect conditions. According to me, it’s the best surface in the world to play on.”
Kick-off for Friday’s clash is scheduled for 19:10.
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Roelof Smit, 6 Lappies Labuschagne (captain), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Substitutes: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Jan Serfontein
Free State Cheetahs
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Francois Uys (captain), 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Elandre Huggett, 1 BG Uys
Substitutes: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Reniel Hugo, 19 Oupa Mohoje, 20 Freddy Ngoza, 21, Ruan van Rensburg, 22 Sias Ebersohn