The Toyota Free State Cheetahs have received a welcome boost as team is in the middle of a player exodus, while injuries are also wreaking havoc within the camp.
The tighthead prop, Conraad “Beertjie” van Vuuren, has made a return to the team after an absence of four years.
The 25-year-old previously played in just two matches for the Cheetahs, but he left the union on a high note to join the Bulls. Van Vuuren’s last game for the Free State was on 22 October 2016, when the Free State beat the Blue Bulls 36-16 to win the Currie Cup for the fifth time.
Van Vuuren linked up with the Cheetahs again on Tuesday, but he is in the City of Roses on a short-term contract to provide cover in the much-depleted tighthead department.
Currently, the Cheetahs only have Khutha Mchunu and the USA-bound Erich de Jager available in the highly specialised department. The Namibian international, Aranos Coetzee, is nursing an ankle injury, Hencus van Wyk is battling with a hamstring strain, while Luan de Bruin left the team to join the Leicester Tigers in England.
Van Vuuren still needs to establish himself at the Cheetahs and it is highly unlikely that he will be in action for the team immediately.
Cheetahs coach, Hawies Fourie, told Bloemfontein Courant that there could be a longer-term contract on offer for the player in the coming weeks.
“Regarding Beertjie, we are very fortunate to sign a player of his quality.
“Although it’s a short term for the meantime, maybe we can have a look at a longer-term contract within three to four weeks.
“I haven’t seen him play for a while and we don’t know what his fitness levels will be. I am sure that he will adapt to our style and what we do quite quickly.
“Hopefully we will be able to select him in the next two or three weeks.”
The Cheetahs will target their first win of the Currie Cup this weekend when they host the Lions on Saturday at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein. Kick-off for this match is at 16:30. – MORGAN PIEK