- Call him a journeyman but Tian Meyer has proven his worth to the Cheetahs and it should only become more apparent now that he has to replace Ruan Pienaar.
- Head coach Hawies Fourie noted how important a scrumhalf is in his team's playing system and the experienced 32-year-old is intimately familiar with what's required.
- There's much excitement for his potential replacement Ruben de Haas' belated debut.
On paper, it's pretty easy to label Tian Meyer a journeyman.
The Pumas, Lions, Sharks and Griquas are all unions he's called home but never seemingly settled, evidence by the fact that not one of those stays were for longer than two seasons.
But Bloemfontein has proven the exception, where the 32-year-old halfback is now enjoying his longest stint to date - four years.
And his worth for the Cheetahs will surely become only more apparent now that his illustrious team-mate, Ruan Pienaar, is out of action until at least December.
Meyer will start in the No 9 jersey in Saturday's Super Rugby Unlocked meeting with the Lions at Ellis Park.
"He's one of the leaders in our team," said Hawies Fourie, head coach, obviously referring to Meyer's captaincy proving instrumental in last year's Currie Cup triumph.
"Tian's going to provide valuable input for Junior (Pokomela, the Cheetahs' stand-in skipper) and what's also very useful is that when you want to lift the tempo of a game, then he's a great option to have in spearheading that. He's really a valuable player to us."
Except for his obvious credentials to fill Pienaar's void, Meyer also fundamentally understands that the traditional Cheetahs way of playing requires a nippy and clinical scrumhalf.
15 EW Viljoen, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Dan Kriel (captain), 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Gianni Lombard, 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vince Tshituka, 6 MJ Pelser, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole.
Substitutes: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Stean Pienaar, 23 Tiaan Swanepoel
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Malcolm Jaer, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Junior Pokomela (captain), 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Reinach Venter , 1 Charles Marais
Substitutes: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Erich de Jager, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Aidon Davis, 21 Chris Massyn, 22 Ruben de Haas, 23 William Small-Smith
"I know it sounds quite simple but the No 9 in our team is a vital cog in our machine because of the way we play," said Fourie.
"We invariably want to play at a high tempo and if our scrumhalf is taking heat at the breakdowns or his service is too slow, then it totally stalls us in terms of attacking momentum.
"Tian is well versed in that regard, he knows what's required of him and he knows how we want to play. I was very happy with his performance last week (against the Bulls). It's always difficult coming off the bench because you never know really how much game-time you'll get in a game.
"As it turned out, he unexpectedly had to play 65 minutes (because of Pienaar's knee injury) and I was really satisfied with his performance, his kicking was accurate and his service efficient."
De Haas lurking
However, there's much excitement surrounding the inclusion of Ruben de Haas as Meyer's replacement on the bench.
The 22-year-old USA Eagles international will continue a rich Free State tradition should he be given an opportunity by following in the footsteps of his father, Pieter, and grandfather, Gerard, in turning out for the team.
It seems strange that a player with World Cup experience only makes his debut now though he was slated to get his chance in the PRO14 campaign before Covid-19 struck.
"We have no doubt that Ruben is good enough to play at the level, and as you said he played in the World Cup last year," said Fourie.
"He was nominated as the best scrumhalf from the tier two nations at the World Cup. That just shows his class and quality. We have confidence in Ruben.
"He has been training with us for more than a year now and I believe that he is looking forward to taking this opportunity."
Kick-off in Doornfontein is at 16:30 on Saturday.