Cheetahs face a pivotal poser

Mon, 22 Apr 2013 20:08
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The return to fitness of Elgar Watts will leave the Cheetahs with a tricky poser ahead of their clash with the Southern Kings this week.

The return to fitness of Elgar Watts will leave the Cheetahs with a tricky poser ahead of their clash with the Southern Kings this week.

Burton Francis, who did not even feature in the high-flying Bloemfontein outfit's pre-season planning, has proved to be a more than adequate stand-in - even as fourth-choice.

The season-ending knee injury of Johan Goosen, followed by hamstring injuries to Elgar Watts (in training ahead of the Cheetahs' opening tour match, against the Chiefs early in March) and Riaan Smith (before the Cheetahs' encounter with the Rebels last month) saw Francis playing a pivotal role the last three weeks.

While Smith has again 'twinged' his hamstring last week and is still not available, Watts had a solid outing for the Free State Vodacom Cup team and is back in the Super Rugby side's selection frame.

"Elgar [Watts] played [against the Pampas XV in Stellenbosch at the weekend] and had a good game," Cheetahs backline coach Hawies Fourie told this website.

"We will consider him this week."

He admitted that given Francis' performances in the last three weeks, it will be a tough call between him and Watts.

"Burton played very well against the Stormers and had a great kicking game," he said of the match-winning performance - sealing it with a penalty after the full-time siren had already sounded.

"The last two games [by Francis] was not at the same level, but we'll make a call on that Wednesday."

The other problem is that Francis took a blow to the hip in the 12-6 win over the Sharks last Saturday and will have to pass a fitness test.

However, if he is fit, the Cheetahs coaching staff will face a tricky call.

The backline coach said they won't fiddle too much with the team that played the past weekend.

"[Scrumhalf] Sarel Pretorius has a chance of being fit and available," he said of the No.9, who pulled a hamstring within a minute after coming on as a second-half replacement against the Stormers.

"We won't be able to make a call on him before Thursday - we'll wait to hear what the medical staff say before we make a call between him and Tewis [de Bruyn] for the matchday 22."

A few of the Cheetahs' heroes from the win over the Sharks did not train on Monday, but should be fit to face the Kings in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Pieter Labuschagne took a big blow to the eye when he and Jean Deysel ran into each other. He had stitches near the eye and it is still very swollen.

Philip van der Walt has been struggling with a foot injury since last year, which flared up again after the weekend and he didn't train Monday either.

Wing Willie le Roux had a neck spasm and also sat out.

But Fourie is confident they will all feature this weekend.

By Jan de Koning

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