The Free State Cheetahs will rely heavily on a handful of senior players during their Currie Cup campaign says newly appointed captain Torsten van Jaarsveld.
"It is a new challenge and one that I am looking forward to a lot. I know it will be tough, but there are many senior players in the squad who will play supporting roles," Van Jaarsveld said ahead of the team's competition opener against the Pumas in Mbombela on Saturday.
Cheetahs coach and former player Rory Duncan, who takes on the duties of head coach in place of Naka Drotske for the local competition, will be assisted by former Springboks Os du Randt and Franco Smith for the duration of the competition.
Van Jaarsveld, who played under Duncan in this year's Vodacom Cup competition replaces Adriaan Strauss due to Springbok duties during the Rugby Championship.
He said he was looking forward to the challenge but that he would also fall back on the support of senior players in the squad.
The Free State side is without Strauss, prop Trevor Nyakane, lock Lood de Jager, flanker Oupa Mohoje, winger Cornal Hendricks and fullback Willie le Roux, who are all preparing with the Springboks.
Van Jaarsveld, wingers Rayno Benjamin and Raymond Rhule, scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius, eighth man Boom Prinsloo and lock Francois Uys are the only senior players included in Duncan's side for their round one clash against the Pumas in Nelspruit on Saturday.
Springbok prop Coenie Oosthuizen, who has been left out for the Rugby Championship, and fellow frontrower Caylib Oosthuizen are both unavailable due to injuries.
AJ Coertzen, Rayno Benjamin, Francois Venter, Joubert Engelbrecht, Raymond Rhule, Willie du Plessis, Sarel Pretorius, Boom Prinsloo, Neil Claassen, Tienie Burger, Francois Uys, Carl Wegner, Luan de Bruin, Torsten van Jaarsveld (captain), Kevin Stevens.
Replacements: Hercu Liebenberg, Bees Roux, Waltie Vermeulen, Henco Venter, Renier Botha, Elgar Watts, JP du Plessis.