All focus on Coenie
While eyebrows may have been raised at the move of exciting youngster Raymond Rhule into the midfield, the biggest load of attention for the Toyota Free State Cheetahs team ahead of their clash against the Vodacom Blue Bulls is the return of Springbok prop Coenie Oosthuizen.
Oosthuizen, who injured his neck facing England in June, will make a 35-minute return (that is the time he has been cleared to play by doctors) and all eyes will be on the impact he makes from the bench with a possible recall to the Bok squad on the cards.
The prop is almost a certainty given the way he made his debut for the Boks and the opening now left by the suspension of Dean Greyling, and is likely, if he comes through unscathed, to move back to the national set-up when the team is announced this coming weekend.
But while the Cheetahs sit in the same position as the Bulls -- a defeat would be devastating for their hopes of missing the promotion-relegation playoff spot, it is quite a gamble for coach Naka Drotske to move Rhule to outside centre, even though the impressive SA under-20 winger played there at Craven Week.
The significance is that the Cheetahs will be looking to replicate the Griquas’ winning formula, taking the ball wide and punching up in the channel in the midfield, an area the Bulls were lacking in defence last weekend. Rayno Benjamin comes in for Rhule on the wing.
Even so, the decision to keep Tewis de Bruyn at flyhalf is perplexing, while the other changes in the side are mainly because of injury.
Ross Geldenhuys starts at tighthead because of Schalk van der Merwe’s injury, while Phillip van der Walt, the Sevens Bok, is back in the No 8 position after Kabamba Floors was ruled out with injury.
Toyota Cheetahs: Hennie Daniller, Nico Scheepers, Raymond Rhule, Robert Ebersohn (capt), Rayno Benjamin, Tewis de Bruyn, Sarel Pretorius, Phillip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, Heinrich Brussow, Izak van der Westhuizen, Francois Uys, Ross Geldenhuys, Hercu Liebenberg, Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: AJ Le Roux, Coenie Oosthuizen, Carl Wegner, Hendro Scholtz, Sias Ebersohn, Phillip Snyman, Andries Strauss.