He is in a much better position than last year this time
The Cheetahs will head off the beaten track during their pre-season build-up, as they look to improve on last year's sixth-place finish in Super Rugby.
Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie confirmed to this website that one of their pre-season games - against the new Currie Cup team, the Pumas, on February 1 - will be played in the Free State town of Parys, a town situated on the banks of the Vaal River in the Free State province.
It will be the first-ever game of it's kind to be played in this historic town and the first rugby match at the Fezile Dabi Stadium, which was unveiled in November last year.
The stadium, built at a cost of nearly ZAR100-million, is a 15,000-seater venue and also has an indoor conference facility.
The Cheetahs will feature in three sets of pre-season games.
It all starts next Friday, January 17, when the Cheetahs play with one team against Shimlas and another team against Griquas - both matches in Bloemfontein.
The week thereafter they head to Jeffreys Bay for a training camp.
On the Tuesday, January 21, one team will play against the NMMU Varsity team, and the other team will play the Eastern Province Kings on the Saturday, January 25.
On February 1 they play against the Pumas in an historic game in Parys, before they open their campaign against the newly promoted Lions in Bloemfontein on Saturday, February 15.
There are no major injuries in the Cheetahs squad, although a few players had corrective surgery during the off-season.
Hennie Daniller - who struggled with a broken bone in his hand throughout 2013 - had surgery and will go for a scan on Monday to ensure it has healed properly. Fourie said the fullback will start training if given the all clear.
Sarel Pretorius and Shaun Venter both underwent shoulder surgery after the Currie Cup, but they have been running with the backs in the split sessions and should be ready soon to train with the full squad.
All the Cheetahs' Springboks, including injury-prone flyhalf Johan Goosen, have been training with the team.
"He [Goosen] is training with the squad, but he won't play next Friday," Fourie told this website.
He added that the talented No.10 will feature in one half against the Kings on February 26 and the week thereafter, against the Pumas, he will start.
"He is in a much better position than last year this time," Fourie said of Goosen, adding: "His first rugby [in 2013] was the first game of the season against the Sharks. This year he will feature in the pre-season.
"His conditioning looks good, he has no discomfort from his knee and he takes part in all the training sessions, so he is very close to 100 percent."
The 21-year-old Bok and Cheetahs flyhalf has endured a horrific run of injuries during his senior career.
In 2012 he dislocated his shoulder midway through Super Rugby, which forced him to miss the Junior World Championship in Cape Town. He recovered to his South African Test debut on September 8 against Australia in Perth, but Goosen suffered a season-ending knee injury in the final Test against the All Blacks, which saw him miss the end-of-year tour to Europe.
Goosen recovered in time for the start of the 2013 Super Rugby campaign, but wasn't fit to play in any warm-up games. He slowly regained his best form, before the injury curse struck again, as he slipped during training ahead of the match against the Force in Perth and suffered another serious knee injury.
Even though Goosen was named in the Bok squad, for the year-end tour, he did not feature in any of the November Test matches.
It is hoped that he will now stay injury free.
By Jan de Koning