Cheetahs pick Juan Smith for Sharks tie

2013-01-30 00:00

THE Cheetahs are hoping to have former Springbok flank Juan Smith back for their Super Rugby opener against the Sharks in Bloemfontein on February 23.

Smith, who started training with the Cheetahs last week, has been sidelined for two years after rupturing his Achilles’ tendon against the Bulls in February 2011.

The lanky loose forward is expected to have his first run for the Cheetahs in the pre-season friendly against the Stormers in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Smith, according to Bloemfontein reports, is not yet under contract after his extended absence and will play for match fees.

“Juan is ready to play. He will probably get 15 minutes against the Stormers and 30 minutes against the Bulls in our final friendly,” said backline coach Hawies Fourie.

“This will allow us to possibly consider him for our first Super game against the Sharks.”

The Cheetahs were stung by their

33-17 weekend loss to the Lions in Johannesburg and will again be below strength against the Stormers.

They will only field their strongest team in their final warm-up game against the Bulls a week later.

Flank Lappies Labuschagné (ankle), number eight Philip van der Walt (knee), fullback Willie le Roux (groin) and centre Johann Sadie (hamstring), and possibly captain and Springbok hooker Adriaan Strauss are likely to play against the Stormers.

Naka Drotske is confident Springboks Coenie Oosthuizen and Johan Goosen will be ready to face the Sharks on February 23.

Prop Oosthuizen (back injury) and flyhalf Goosen (knee) went down with serious injuries last year, but they are both back in training.

Meanwhile, Sharks assistant coach Hugh Reece-Edwards is satisfied with the squad’s preparations, but said the players needed to find a way to turn finals into trophies.

“We’ve reached three finals in a row now [twice in the Currie Cup and once in Super Rugby] and haven’t nailed any of them.

“The guys are getting a bit annoyed about that.

“We know what we have to do, we know where we’ve made mistakes, and that’s a good thing. We know what we have to do better and the mental preparation we need to put into this is massive,” Reece-Edwards said.

But Reece-Edwards said that the coaching staff was happy with the pre-season work.

“The squad is settled and there is a good understanding of what we want to do.

“Depth-wise, there are two players in virtually every position fighting for that position, which is a healthy state for us to be in.”

But, Reece-Edwards emphasised, the mental approach of the players was critical.

“We really have to nail down this year and that starts now.

“We can’t start by losing the first few games and then playing catch-up.

“We have to start by playing positive, winning rugby.”

The coaching staff, in turn, had to manage each player through a marathon campaign.

“We’re in a situation this year where we have a certain amount of depth and we can start to look at nurturing the players.

“The ball is in our court at the moment, we’ve got to use it, and use it well.”

He said the draw suited the Sharks with a run of home games before the tour of New Zealand and Australia.

“We are quite happy to be at home initially and get some good games under the belt. A good start is going to be really important. If we get going well, then it paves the way for further down the line in the competition.”

Reece-Edwards said that winning the South African conference was the obvious aim.

“But it starts with winning your home games. We have a few of those before we travel so it is really going to be important, and then obviously getting points when we are away.

“There is no reason why this side can’t do well. It’s something the players are aware of, something we are all aware of, and again, it’s going to come down to us doing the right things at the right time.”

The Sharks have two pre-season friendlies, first against the Leopards at the Woodburn Stadium on Friday, February 8, and the Pumas in Nelspruit on February 15.

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