Blow for Cheetahs as Juan Smith ruled out of Super opener

2011-02-17 00:00

THE Cheetahs suffered a major blow yesterday when captain and Springbok flank Juan Smith, suffering from a calf strain, was ruled out of their Super Rugby opener against the Sharks at King’s Park on Saturday evening.

The tall, hard-working Cheetahs flank failed a fitness test yesterday and he will be replaced by Phillip van der Walt, with hooker Adriaan Strauss taking over as captain.

The Cheetahs will also be without Heinrich Brüssow, their other Springbok flank, who is expected to be back from a serious knee injury within a month.

Former Sharks centre Andries Strauss, up against his old team-mates for the first time, will play outside the Griqua halfback pairing of Sarel Pretorius and flyhalf Naas Olivier while Philip Burger, who recently returned from French club Perpignan, is on the wing.

Coach Naka Drotské said the loss of Smith is a massive setback because the Sharks, in Ryan Kankowski, Willem Alberts and Keegan Daniel, have one of the most effective backrows in the competition.

“Kankowski proved a particularly dangerous game-breaker last time we played against the Sharks [in the Currie Cup late last year].”

Drotské said the Cheetahs defence, and their ability to prevent the Sharks’ loose trio gaining momentum, is key to the outcome of Saturday’s game.

He said the inclusion of Kabamba Floors at number eight is aimed at improving the Free Staters’ defence.

The Sharks team will be named later today with John Smit expected to lead the team from loosehead. Odwa Ndungane will be on the wing if Springbok JP Pietersen is ruled out with a hamstring strain.

Sharks coach John Plumtree said that continuity in selection is the Cheetahs’ strength.

“They’ve managed to keep that same group of forwards together, and there are just one or two changes in the backline with Andries Strauss and Phillip Burger back with them. But continuity in their group is gold at this level.

“It’s going to be a pretty tough encounter upfront.”

Plumtree said he is not concerned about centre Andries Strauss revealing any secrets to the Cheetahs after his many years in Durban.

“Andries knows everything about us.

“He was always very good with decision-making and strategy on the field and he enjoyed that role. But we’ve changed a fair bit and I’m not sure how much influence he will have. We’ve changed our codes and calling system, so I don’t believe he will be able to give too much away.”

While Strauss has moved to Bloemfontein, Meyer Bosman has joined the Sharks from the Cheetahs and, ironically, they will be marking each other on Saturday.

“I haven’t even discussed the Cheetahs with Meyer,” said Plumtree.

Plumtree said the new players are still settling in at the Sharks.

“Meyer Bosman and Stefan Terblanche, in particular, have worked hard to develop that combination in the midfield.

“At halfback [nine and 10], it has been tougher for Conrad Hoffman and Jacques-Louis Potgieter because they are the link between backs and forwards and the way we play our game is totally different from where they’ve come from.

“It will take time for them. They’re starting to get there and understand it, but understanding it and doing it are two different things. As time goes by in the competition, they’ll get better and more confident.”

Cheetahs team – 15. Hennie Daniller, 14. Philip Burger, 13. Robert Ebersohn, 12. Andries Strauss, 11. Ryno Benjamin, 10. Naas Olivier, 9. Sarel Pretorius, 8. Kabamba Floors, 7. Philip van der Walt, 6. Frans Viljoen, 5. Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4. Francois Uys, 3. WP Nel, 2. Adriaan Strauss (capt), 1. Coenie Oosthuizen.

Replacements: 16. Ryno Barnes, 17. Kobus Calldo, 18. Waltie Vermeulen, 19. Ashley Johnson, 20. Tewis de Bruyn, 21. Sias Ebersohn, 22. Riaan Viljoen.

Possible Sharks team:

Louis Ludik, Odwa Ndungane, Stefan Terblanche, Meyer Bosman, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Charl McLeod, Ryan Kankwoski, Willem Alberts, Keegan Daniel, Alistair Hargreaves, Steven Sykes, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, John Smit (capt).

Replacements: Riaan Swanepoel (or Adi Jacobs), Jacque-Louis Potgeter, Conrad Hoffman, Jacques Botes, Gerhard Mostert, Beast Mtawarira, Craig Burden.

Kick-off: 5.05 pm

Ref: Craig Joubert.

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