Kruger ousts De Waal in fly-half race




Cheetahs coach Rassie Erasmus, famous for his rooftop stadium antics, has pulled a rabbit out the hat by naming Herkie Kruger at fly-half for the encounter with the Stormers on Saturday.

Erasmus has named Kruger, who will make his Super 14 debut for the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, in the No.10 jersey ahead of last season’s regular Willem de Waal.

Cheetahs backline coach Franco Smith said the decision is based on the perception that the Stormers will play a conservative, kicking game and the Cheetahs need to counter that.

“Herkie is has a very able boot and his ability to spread to ball to his backline is just as good as Willem De Waal’s,” Smith said.

Kruger, who played for the Sharks before being banned for substance abuse, joined Griquas last year after returning to South Africa from a stint in Italy. He produced some impressive Currie Cup performances, before getting a Cheetahs call-up this year.

Saturday will be his first real test.

“The selection of Naas Olivier at fly-half, instead of Brent Russell, shows that they plan a more conservative approach,” said Smith.

The team that Erasmus named on Thursday have a few other interesting selections.

Ronnie Cooke, a star midfielder from last year, will play on the left wing – with Joubert and Meyer Bosman the centres.

Darron Nell will start at lock in the place of injured Barend Pieterse. Pieterse injured his ankle in the warm-up match against the Sharks in Durban last and is most likely to miss the whole tournament.

Rory Duncan, who injured his foot in the same match, will play in a curtain raiser for the Free State Cheetahs against Western Province. Duncan will get some game time from the bench is this match.

Veteran prop Ollie le Roux will become the first South African rugby player to play 100 Super Rugby matches.

Le Roux also holds the record for the most first class appearances by a South African, with 319 matches. He made his Super Rugby debut for Natal in 1996 and played in two finals of the competition.

Discarded Springbok centre Marius Joubert, who played for the Stormers till last year, is set to make his debut for the Cheetahs against his former team-mates.

“One player doesn’t make a team, but a team can make a player,” Cheetahs coach Rassie Erasmus said when asked if Joubert had something to prove against his former teammates.

“I really think our centres will be more than able to stand their ground against Jean de Villiers and Corne Uys,” Erasmus added.

Tiger Mangweni will also make his first appearance for the Cheetahs. The fullback has two Super Rugby caps, having played for the Stormers.

The battle of the breakdown will be interesting.

The Stormers got last year’s South African Super 14 Player of the Year Luke Watson, along with Springboks Schalk Burger and Joe van Niekerk as their loose forwards.

The Cheetahs have three Boks in their loose forward combination – in Kabamba Floors, Juan Smith and Hendro Scholtz.

Cheetahs: 15 Tiger Mangweni, 14 Philip Burger, 13 Marius Joubert, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Ronnie Cooke, 10 Herkie Kruger, 9 Falie Oelschig, 8 Kabamba Floors, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Corniel van Zyl, 4 Darron Nell, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Ollie le Roux.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Bian Vermaak, 19 Ryno van der Merwe, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Willem de Waal, 22 Eddie Fredericks.

Date: Saturday, 3 February
Venue: Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 19.10 (17.10 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Touch judges: Linston Manuels (South Africa), Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

By Hannes Nienaber

365 Digital

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