Cheetahs ready for two-pronged onslaught
PRO14 SPOTLIGHT: The Cheetahs, the defending Currie Cup champions and current tournament pace-setters, will face an entirely new challenge this week. Jan de Koning reports.
They will make their Pro14 debut against Irish giants Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Friday.
It is also the start of a unique tournament - the only team that will compete in two first-class competitions simultaneously.
The Cheetahs will also travel to Durban to take on the Sharks - in second place, just one point behind on the standings - in a Currie Cup match on Saturday.
Cheetahs Forwards coach Corniel van Zyl is adamant that the Bloemfontein-based outfit have both the depth and talent to remain competitive in both the Currie Cup and newly launched Pro14.
There are six games where the Pro14 and Currie Cup overlap, if the Cheetahs make the Currie Cup Final.
"We fortunately have a big squad and we have faith in the squad," Van Zyl said.
"You can't say it will be an A-team or a B-team," he said, adding: "As coaches we believe that anyone who puts on that jersey will perform to the best of their ability.
"There has been a lot of planning and we are looking to field the best possible team for whichever game."
Van Zyl, one of the coaches that will travel to Belfast with the Pro14 squad, spoke of taking it week-by-week.
"It won't be till middle November before we have our next break and that is a long time - of you include Super Rugby.
"The big thing is to just look at it one week at a time and field the best possible team in both competitions."
For the overlap period the Pro14 coaching staff are Rory Duncan (head coach), Van Zyl (forwards coach), Dave Williams (backline coach) and Charl Strydom (defence).
For the same period the Currie Cup coach will be Daan Human - with MJ Smith as backline coach. Albert Keuris will act as skills coach.
Franco Smith, Director of Rugby, will - apart from all his other responsibilities - also assist both teams with skills, structures and strategy.
He said they won't be changing their approach to the game just because half the fixtures take place in the Northern Hemisphere.
"The approach will be to coach and do the stuff we are used to doing, especially in the past few seasons under Franco [Smith].
"Obviously you will look at the conditions on the day. You may have to go a little bit more conservative, but we don't want to change.
"We want to maintain the style with what we started this big, big journey.
"However, if it pours with rain you are not going to throw the ball around all day."
He said they may have a slight advantage by taking their Currie Cup momentum into the Pro14 tournament.
"We have been on the go already, so that will help us a bit - if we can take that momentum into the Pro14."
Meamwhile the Cheetahs named their squad for the first two round of the Pro14 and the next two rounds of the Currie Cup.
Cheetahs 28-man squad for first two Pro14 games in Ireland: Cecil Afrika, Justin Basson, Tom Botha, Rynier Bernardo, Ryno Benjamin, Clayton Blommetjies, Aranos Coetzee, Erich de Jager, Joseph Dweba, Jacques du Toit, Reniel Hugo, Niell Jordaan, Armandt Koster, Charles Marais, Makazole Mapimpi, Ali Mgijima, Mthokozisi Mkhabela, Tian Meyer, Retshegofaditswe Nche, Gerhard Olivier, Sergeal Peterson, Robbie Petzer, Rosko Specman, Paul Schoeman, William Small-Smith, Shaun Venter, Henco Venter, Torsten van Jaarsveld.
Free State Cheetahs team for next two round of the Currie Cup: Dian Badenhorst, Carel Jan Coetzee, Chris Dry, Luan de Bruin, Ryno Eksteen, Reinhardt Erwee, Loyd Greeff, Elandre Huggett, Nicolaas Immelman, Gunter Janse van Rensburg, Jacobus Jonker, Johan Kotze, Andrew Kuhn, Nico Lee, Daniel Maartens, Vuyani Maqina, Marco Mason, Luther Obi, Junior Pokomela, Sibabalo Qoma, Refuoe Rampeta, Tiaan Schutte, Jean-Pierre Smith, Ernst Stapelberg, Stephan van Rensburg, Abram Venter, Ntokozo Vidima, Dennis Visser, Jasper Wiese, Carl Wegner.
By Jan de Koning