Drotské backs his team's depth
The Free State Cheetahs may have an entire front row in the Springbok squad, while another prop and hooker returned to Griquas, but they still have virtually their entire Super Rugby team in tact.
When the Cheetahs head to Johannesburg on Saturday, to take on the Golden Lions, the men from Bloemfontein will have a decidedly Super Rugby look about them.
Only two players - wing Rayno Benjamin and prop Rossouw de Klerk - have been ruled out for this weekend with injuries.
Of course their entire front row - Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen and Adriaan Strauss - is on Bok duty.
Then there are two other Super Rugby Boks, prop Lourens Adriaanse (back with Griquas) and wing Willie le Roux (on Bok duty) that won't feature in the Currie Cup. Hooker Ryno Barnes and lock Rynhardt Landman have also returned to Kimberley.
In reality it is only in the front row where the Cheetahs' dept will be tested, but coach Naka Drotské is adamant they have more than adequate cover.
"At the beginning of the year it was a close call between Caylib Oosthuizen and Trevor Nyakane, over who would start and Trevor became a Springbok this year," Drotské told this website, when quizzed about his depleted front row.
"Caylib is a really good player," he said of the team's starting loosehead at Ellis Park - a venue where Oosthuizen made his name before the former South African Schools and SA Under-20 front row forward's move to Bloemfontein this year.
"Wian du Preez has played many games for the Cheetahs and he gained plenty more experience in Ireland," the Cheetahs coach said of the 30-year-old one-time Bok prop, who has just returned from a three-year stint with Irish province Munster.
"We also got Jon-Roy Jenkinson from the Leopards," Drotské said of the former Baby Bok, who will start at tighthead prop against the Lions.
"He really scrummed well [in the practice match against Griquas] last Friday.
"We also have [injured prop] Rossouw de Klerk [recruited from the Bulls this year], so there's plenty of depth for those three positions where we have players in the Bok team.
"Our locks, loose forwards and backline is virtually the same as our Super Rugby team.
"Willie le Roux, who is contracted to Griquas to the end of the year and is currently with the Boks, is the only player from our Super Rugby backline that is missing ," Drotské added.
A quick glance at the Cheetahs team that played in their last Super Rugby match, a heartbreaking 13-15 loss to the Brumbies in the preliminary play-offs, show that 12 of them will feature in the starting XV at Ellis Park - the front row the obvious 'missing link'.
The changes will see Riaan Smit moving from flyhalf to wing to cover for the Bok flyer, Le Roux, and Elgar Watts (who came off the bench against the Brumbies) starting at No.10. Johannes Prinsloo, who will captain the Cheetahs in place of Bok Heinrich Brussow (now playing in Japan), also came off the bench in Canberra.
Petrus Vermeulen, who also came off the bench, will start in place of Rynhardt Landman (returned to Griquas) at lock.
The new front row is Jon-Roy Jenkinson, Hercu Liebenberg and Caylib Oosthuizen. The starting front row in Canberra was Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss and Coenie Oosthuizen.
Free State Cheetahs - for opening Curie Cup game: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Smit, 13 Johan Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Johannes Prinsloo (captain), 5 Petrus Vermeulen, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Jon-Roy Jenkinson, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, Wian du Preez, 18 Teboho Mohoje, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Joubert Engelbrecht, 22 Piet Lindeque.
Cheetahs - in Super Rugby play-off match: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Rynhardt Landman, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Petrus Vermeulen, 19 Johannes Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Elgar Watts, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
By Jan de Koning