Always full of excitement, the Cheetahs will need more consistency if they are to challenge for the title in 2017.
Home: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Last Season: 14th
Ox Nche, Elandre Huggett, Erich de Jager, Charles Marais, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Johan Coetzee, Armandt Koster, Reniel Hugo, Dennis Visser, Francois Uys, Boom Prinsloo, Paul Schoeman, Uzair Cassiem, Niell Jordaan, Oupa Mohoje, Junior Pokomela, Zee Mkhaebela, Reinach Venter, Tian Meyer, Shaun Venter, Fred Zeilinga, Niel Marais, Ruan van Rensburg, Ryno Benjamin, Ali Mgijima, Clinton Swart, Joubert Engelbrecht, Nico Lee, JP Smith, Sergeal Petersen, Ryno Eksteen, Clayton Blommetjies
First five-eighths Niel Marais will be essential to the Cheetahs this year, especially after the confidence boost he could take after helping the side to their first Currie Cup championship in nine years last season. While his ball distribution is an important asset, his goal-kicking could be even more vital. In the final of the Currie Cup last year he landed seven penalty goals for a 100 percent record against neighbours the Blue Balls.
Francois Venter will captain the Cheetahs although his start may be delayed while he recovers from an ankle injury suffered during last season’s Currie Cup success and which was aggravated on the Springboks’ end of season tour. His running ability and defensive accuracy are important for his side and having forced his was into the South African Test side he has more experience to put to use for the Cheetahs.
Mark down this name Ox Nche. A 21-year-old prop he was named the Currie Cup player of the year last season, and the honours don’t come much higher than that in South Africa. He made his Investec Super Rugby debut last year but will be looking to make more of an impact with his ball-carrying ability this year – a style of game that has always been associated with the Cheetahs. He helped South Africa Under-20 to a bronze medal in the 2015 Junior World Championship.
Look for more of the running game from the Cheetahs this year. While the loss of personnel has hit the side in recent seasons, how they would have loved to held onto lock Lood de Jager, the side’s Currie Cup triumph last year was testimony to their attacking style. They scored 57 tries in their 10 games, and were especially effective in making clean breaks and leaving more than 200 defenders beaten. That was sufficient to ensure success, much like the Lions had dominated South African Super Rugby. It has also helped that coach Franco Smith is sticking with the side and not taking an offer to replace Pat Lam at Connacht.