- Rhyno Smith's return for the Cheetahs is a timely one as they seek a boost for their upcoming Currie Cup campaign.
- Prolific in last season's PRO14, the 27-year-old winger also illustrates that the central franchise is backing up its new strategy of recruiting quality over quantity.
- Griquas though are emboldened by their newfound defensive prowess to stifle their hosts' high-tempo game.
Rhyno Smith's return to the Cheetahs' starting line-up for their concluding Super Rugby Unlocked match against Griquas is noteworthy on two fronts.
Most obviously is the fact that the 27-year-old fullback cum winger provides sting to the Free Staters' attack.
Smith, who moved to Bloemfontein from Durban last year, was an instant hit, maintaining a hefty try-scoring strike rate in his inaugural PRO14 campaign.
One could argue he's made a similar impact to Makazole Mapimpi, who made the most of a short stay in the City of Roses before taking up his contract with the Sharks three years ago.
It's likely that the former NWU-Pukke star would've already featured in the current campaign had he not sustained a quad injury in the week leading up to local rugby's resumption.
"It's definitely great to have him back," said Hawies Fourie, the Cheetahs' head coach.
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rhyno Smith, 13 Howard Mnisi, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Aidon Davis, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Carl Wegner (captain), 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Hencus van Wyk, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Boan Venter
Substitutes: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Cameron Dawson, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Oupa Mohoje, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin, 23 William Small-Smith
15 Masixole Banda, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Harlon Klaasen, 12 Johnathan Francke, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Zak Burger (captain), 8 Carl Els, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Adre Smith, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 HJ Luus, 1 Mox Mxoli.
Substitutes (from): 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Andrew Beerwinkel, 18 Madot Mabokela, 19 Ewan Coetzee, 20 CJ Velleman, 21 Theo Maree, 22 Andre Swarts, 23 Daniel Kasende, 24 Bandisa Ndlovu, 25 Sibabalo Qoma, 26 Ashlon Davids
"Rhyno scored 10 tries in 13 PRO14 games last season, which was the most in the competition even though he played fewer games than some of the players who would have gone through to the final and played about 17.
"He's a really exciting player, reads the game well. He adds some extra attacking ability to our mix."
Despite his previous impact, the Cheetahs coped reasonably well without him as Malcolm Jaer and Rosko Specman established themselves as an equally prolific wing combination, which only started to fizzle out to an extent last week against the Stormers.
Nonetheless, it illustrates that Fourie's re-worked recruitment strategy of prioritising quality over quantity has the potential to bear fruit.
"Replacing Malcolm with Rhyno definitely shows we have quality depth at our disposal," said the Cheetahs mentor.
"We even have guys like Craig Barry and Duncan Saal waiting in the wings. The key here is that all those players possess undeniably quality. That's what we're striving to do here, to have proven depth."
A dodgy forecast for Bloemfontein on Saturday means that Smith could have limited opportunities to run with the ball, but Griquas will still be emboldened by their improved defence, especially if their hosts are allowed to play their high-tempo game.
"We tackled really well against the Sharks last week," said Scott Mathie, the Peacock Blues' coach.
"It's definitely helped that our group is starting to settle. A defensive system is far easier to execute when the players are getting used to it and each other.
"I wouldn't say we've made major tweaks technically. So many teams actually use a similar template and the same folding principles and stuff. What really matters is attitude. The real success of one's defence lies in the players' tackle fight."