A new era for Free State rugby

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Cecil Afrika and Francois Venter PHOTO: MORGAN PIEK

The Toyota Cheetahs view Saturday’s Super Rugby game against the Stormers in Bloemfontein as the start of a new era.

The team may very well be playing in their last Super Rugby game at home this weekend.

Fresh reports out of the UK are suggesting that both the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings could be joining the expanded PRO12 as early as September this year.

On Thursday the Cheetahs confirmed that the South African ‘A’ flyhalf Fred Zeilinga and the former Junior Springbok, William Small-Smith, have signed two-year extensions on their current contracts at the team.

The Cheetahs captain Francois Venter told OFM Sport that the Stormers are under more pressure than them, but they are at the dawn of a new era in Free State rugby.

“Yes, but I still think that they want to gain momentum going into the play-offs.

“It’s a very important game for us, because we’re also stepping into a new stage of Free State rugby.

“If we go onto the field we always give our best. We’re not focusing on them, we’re just focusing on our plans.

“We want to be better.

“After the rest the squad has a new vibe and everybody is just keen to go out there are play.

Meanwhile, the Springbok Sevens legend, Cecil Afrika is set for his Free State debut this weekend. At this stage Afrika is in MJ Smith’s 25-man squad for the Toyota Free State XV’s SuperSport Rugby Challenge quarter-final against Western Province in Cape Town.

However, Afrika may well be drafted into the Super Rugby team, as cover for Sergeal Petersen. Petersen was named in the side, but a source close to OFM Sport indicated that there is a slight injury concern over the speedster.

This development will be confirmed by 14:00 on Friday afternoon.

Saturday afternoon’s crunch match at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein kicks off at 15:05.

Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Henco Venter, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Elandre Huggett, 1 Ox Nche.

Replacements – 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Justin Basson, 20 Oupa Mohoje, 21 Fred Zeilinga, 22 Ruan van Rensburg, 23 William Small-Smith.

Stormers – 15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Rynardt Elstadt, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Frans Malherbe (captain), 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.

Replacements – 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 EW Viljoen, 23 Seabelo Senatla. – MORGAN PIEK