Venter returns to lead Cheetahs
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Springbok centre Francois Venter returns from international duty to lead the Cheetahs in their first match of 2018.
The Cheetahs travel to Italy where they tackle on Benetton in a Pro14 Round 13 match on Saturday.
The team from Bloemfontein beat Welsh outfit Scarlets 28-21 in Bloemfontein on December 2, before their mid-season break.
Benetton won both their Christmas and New Year's weekend matches against neighbours, Zebre - but have not won three in a row in the Pro14 since December 2012.
The Cheetahs have lost just twice since Round Two, at home to Glasgow in October and away to Connacht in November.
This is the two sides' first meeting.
Venter returns after his impressive performances for the Springboks on the national team's end-of-year tour.
Cheetahs coach Rory Duncan made a number of changes.
Apart from the return of Venter, Craig Barry moves to fullback, replacing Clayton Blommetjies - who has been side-lined due to a cold.
William Small-Smith will be starting on right wing.
Springboks Teboho Mohoje (flank) and Uzair Cassiem (No.8) are both in the starting line-up.
Cassiem will be making his Pro14 debut.
Rynier Bernardo and Junior Pokomela will be providing cover on the bench.
Tian Meyer is suffering from a groin injury giving Mthokozisi Mkhabela the opportunity on the bench.
Niel Marais and Adriaan Coertzen will both be making their Pro14 debuts when they set foot to field.
Benetton's South African coach Marius Goosen is familiar with the qualities of the Cheetahs and warned his team about the dangers they pose.
"The Cheetahs have skilled players and they are very strong in the tackles," Goosen said.
"To contain them it will be necessary to defend well and slow down their game."
Another South African, loose forward Abraham Steyn, also spoke about the "tough" challenge the Italian team will face.
"The South African teams have started with some difficulties in this competition, but as we have seen the Cheetahs were good to adapt quickly," Steyn, who previously played for the Cheetahs, said.
"It will be important to be superior in the set pieces. For me it will be a special match, because I will meet guys with whom I went to school and with whom I was teammate [at the Cheetahs]. I cannot wait to take the field."
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Marco Barbini, 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Whetu Douglas, 5 Dean Budd (captain), 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Cherif Traore, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Marco Fuser, 21 Sebastian Negri, 22 Edoardo Gori, 23 Ian McKinley.
Cheetahs: 15 Craig Barry, 14 William Small Smith, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Makazola Mapimpi, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 18 Botha Tom, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Mthokozisi Mkhabela, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Adriaan Coertzen.
Date: Saturday, January 6
Venue: Stadio Monigo, Treviso
Kick-off: 14.15 (15.15 SA time; 13.15 GMT)
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)