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Rugby | Currie Cup

Rhule at fullback for Cheetahs

The Toyota Cheetahs have ruffled some feathers and chosen their strongest team – the one that normally plays in Pro14 rugby – for their Currie Cup final round fixture against the Xerox Golden Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.

With both sides needing to win to ensure they make the playoffs, and the Pro14 on a two-week recess at the moment, the Cheetahs have decided against resting their players and picked their strongest side to take on the Lions in the hope of defending their title.

But while the strategy may have short-term results, it is riskier in the long term, as the players will not necessarily be available when the Pro14 resumes in a fortnight’s time, the same weekend as the Currie Cup final.

Still, the Cheetahs have decided to bring in Director of Rugby Franco Smith and Pro14 coach Rory Duncan this week, with regular Currie Cup coach Daan Human taking over when they head back to Pro14 rugby.

Duncan said the move – which sees Springbok winger Raymond Rhule line up at fullback for the fixture – was because they simply needed to win this game.

“it is an extremely important game for us,” Pro14 coach Rory Duncan said. “We’re moving from Pro14 to Currie Cup and obviously we take the Currie Cup very seriously and we are pushing as hard as we can to get the result this weekend.

“We’ve gone with basically the same line-up, barring a couple of players who have a couple of niggles, we’ve been forced to take them out of selection but outside of that it is pretty much the team that we have been playing the last couple of weeks.”

There are niggles to Francois Venter and Sergeal Petersen which keep both players out of the game, but the rest of the side are basically a carbon copy of the team that has done battle in Pro14 rugby thus far.

“Everybody understands this weekend is an important game, and we wanted to go in by selecting our strongest possible line-up. After doing our homework, we’ve come up with this team, which is our strongest team. There are tough competition in certain positions but this is the outcome we want,” Duncan added.

The Free State Rugby Union explained their decision in the team press release as well.

“Free State Rugby’s vision and objective is to keep the Currie Cup in the Free State, and therefore, each and every match from now on will be seen and played as a potential final,” it said in a statement.

“Even though some players have played a substantial amount of rugby through Super Rugby, Currie Cup and now Guinness Pro14 the defence of the Currie Cup remains paramount. As expected there might be a few niggles at this stage in the competition and these players will be assessed and given an opportunity to recover.

“The full coaching structure will take charge of the Currie Cup team in preparation for the upcoming match. The structure includes Franco Smith as Director of Rugby, Rory Duncan as Head Coach assisted by Corniel van Zyl, Daan Human, Charl Strydom, Dave Williams.

“It is all systems go for the current Currie Cup champions in defending the title.”

But if they get that far, it will be interesting to see what happens when the Pro14 competition resumes.

Toyota Free State Cheetahs: Raymond Rhule, Rosko Speckman, Nico Lee, William Small-Smith, Makazole Mapimpi, Ernst Stapelberg, Tian Meyer, Oupa Mohoje, Henco Venter, Paul Schoeman, Reniel Hugo, Justin Basson, Johan Coetzee, Torsten van Jaarsveld (capt), Charles Marais.

Replacements: Ox Nche, Jacques du Toit, Rynier Bernado, Junior Pokomela, Shaun Venter, Ali Mjijima, Luther Obi


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