The Toyota Cheetahs are expecting to be at near full strength when they tackle the Italian outfit, Benneton Rugby, early next month in the Guinness Pro14.
The Cheetahs will welcome back virtually all of their injured players for the mini-tour to Italy, as well as all their Springboks.
Although the Cheetahs have three Springboks that returned from Europe on Monday, Francois Venter, Oupa Mohoje and Uzair Cassiem will be a welcome addition to the side. Cassiem is yet to make his Pro14 debut for the team as injury ruled him out of the first trip aboard to Ireland.
When one takes a look at the list of injured players it is almost hard to believe that the Cheetahs have a 10 points cushion above the Cardiff Blues in Conference A of competition are due to their third place standing are serious contenders for a play-off berth.
Players are one on the injured list include Justin Basson (lock), Luan de Bruin (prop), Ryno Eksteen (flyhalf/ fullback), Lloyd Greeff (centre/ wing), Elandré Huggett (hooker), Malcolm Jaer (fullback), Niell Jordaan (loose forward), Niel Marais (flyhalf), Ali Mgijima (centre), Luther Obi (wing), Gerhard Olivier (flank), Ernst Stapelberg (flyhalf), Clinton Swart (centre / flyhalf), Ruan van Rensburg (utility back), Henco Venter (loose forward) and Dennis Visser (lock).
When one includes Niell Jordaan who sustained an injury game Munster in Limerick it totals sixteen players, more than a full run-on side. Including the returning Springboks it almost makes for a complete match 23.
With a the shear amount of injuries, it is needless to say that the coach Rory Duncan will be enjoying a good festive season due to the players he will be getting back.
“We obviously have our three Boks returning. If we look at the list of injured players, the likes of Clinton Swart will be cleared, Malcolm Jaer is going to be cleared, Niel Marais is going to be cleared, Henco Venter is going to be cleared.
“Dennis and Voete (Justin Basson) are going to be cleared, Gerhard (Olivier) is going to be cleared. So we have about seven players who will be cleared.
“There will be a lot of competition in numerous positions in which we’ve had injuries. Certainly among the loose forwards and at flyhalf. That’s great because it will mean better performances.”
It was expected that Jordaan would also be ready to return to the sport, however, Duncan did confirm that the team’s first captain in the competition will still be out for a few months.
Questions were raised as to the whereabouts of the former Springbok Sevens stalwart, Rayno Benjamin. The players contract at the Cheetahs expired at the end of October and has left the union. Recently he was in action for Kukri Cobras in Dubai, along with another former Blitzboks, Fabian Juries.
The Cheetahs reassemble on 27 December to begin their prep ahead of the match in Treviso on 6 January. The following two weeks the Cheetahs will tackle the Southern Kings away and at home in the South African Pro14 derbies. – MORGAN PIEK