Veteran Springbok flank Juan Smith could be the bolter in the Cheetahs team when they face the Stormers in a pre-season match in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie, who expressed his disappointment in the side’s 17-33 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg at the weekend, revealed that a number of key players are scheduled to return this week.
Smith, who has not played since 25 February 2011, when he tore his Achilles tendon in a Super Rugby match against the Bulls in Bloemfontein , started training with the Cheetahs last week.
Whether it is uncertain that he will start against the Stormers, given the need for him to be “eased back” after two years on the sidelines and several operations, he could make his comeback off the bench.
Another Bok veteran who is an outside chance to feature against the Stormers is fellow flank Heinrich Brüssow – who has not played since he injured his shoulder in the Cheetahs’ Currie Cup encounter with Griquas in October.
“There are so many of our first-choice players that have to return from injury,” Fourie said, adding: “You are looking at guys like Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen, Juan Smith, Heinrich Brüssow, Philip van der Walt and Lappies Labuschagne which are almost a whole pack of forwards.
“There is still some fire power at home and if everyone is ready we will have a really good team.”
Fourie heaped praise on the Golden Lions for the way they have reacted to relegation from this year’s Super Rugby tournament, following their demolition of the Cheetahs at the weekend.
The Lions made a spirited comeback in the second half of the warm-up match from a 10-point deficit to triumph in the end.
“You have to give credit to the Lions for the way they played, especially in the second half, how they came back and used their opportunities,” Fourie said.
Fourie lamented his side’s performance and believed some of the players did not impress in their first outing of the season.
While the Cheetahs showed some potential on attack, their defence ultimately let them down as they leaked five tries.
“The combinations are not tried yet and from a coaching point of view, we wanted to see how the guys performed in the positions they were selected,” he said.
“There are a few guys that would be disappointed today and the effort wasn’t good enough.”
Fourie said it remained a challenge at the start of the season to find the right combinations from their options.
“It is always difficult for the Cheetahs at the beginning of the Super Rugby season to decide between players from the Griquas and us, who are the best and second best,” Fourie said.
“These games are there to look at this and there were guys that looked good in training but did not put up their hands after we expected them to do better.”