The defending Currie Cup champions, the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, have opted for continuity heading into the tournament opener against the Sharks on Friday evening.
The Cheetahs have named their strongest possible side heading into the world’s oldest domestic competition.
The 22-man squad includes the three Blitzboks, Rosco Specman, Chris Dry and Cecil Afrika. Specman, will start on the wing in the place of the injured Sergeal Petersen, while Dry and Afrika will play off the bench.
Francois Venter retains the team’s captaincy, while his fellow Springbok, Raymond Rhule, has been named on the wing.
Venter told OFM Sport that the three Blitzboks are excited to be playing Currie Cup.
“They are actually very excited to be playing as well.
“They are a great asset to the team. We can take their success in the Sevens and apply it to Free State Rugby.
“Especially when it comes to their team work and vibe in the Sevens squad, everybody can see it’s outstanding.
“We will take it and learn from it, but I think it they will bring a different skill set to 15-man rugby.
“All three of them will be great contributors to Free State rugby.”
There is concern over the fact that the Cheetahs have named just one specialist flyhalf in their 22-man squad.
This is due to the South African ‘A’ pivot, Fred Zeilinga, battling with a hip injury.
The coach, Rory Duncan, believes that they have enough talent in the squad to fill the void if the need arises.
“At this moment in time Fred is not available for selection due to injury.
“We’ve got sufficient cover in the flyhalf position in the form of a player like Clayton Blommetjies.
“We’ve decided to pick a bench with players like Zee (Mkhabela), JW (Jonker) and Cecil. If Clayton does have to move into the number 10 position, then Cecil can cover for us at fullback.
The Blitzboks playmaker, Afrika, has previously marshalled the backline in 15-man code.
The Southern Kings due of Makazole Mapimpi (wing) and Malcolm Jaer (fullback), will be linking up with the team on Friday, but haven’t been considered for selection due to both players moving to the City of Roses from Port Elizabeth.
Friday evening’s clash at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein kicks off at 19:00.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rosco Specman, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Niell Jordaan, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements – 16 Ox Nche, 17 Reinach Venter, 18 Rynier Bernardo, 19 Chris Dry, 20 Zee Mkhabela, 21 JW Jonker, 22 Cecil Afrika. – MORGAN PIEK