Jean Cook, imported from the Bulls in the off-season, has jumped ahead of Sevens Springbok Johannes Prinsloo in the Cheetahs loose forward queue.
Cook, who started his career with the Cheetahs where he made only one senior appearance before switching to the Bulls in 2012, is set to fill the gap left by injured Bok openside flank Heinrich Brussow.
It has been confirmed that Cook will start – alongside Pieter Labuschagné and Philip van der Walt – as the Cheetahs’ first-choice loose trio against the Southern Kings on Saturday.
Cheetahs team to face Kings on Saturday: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagné, 6 Jean Cook, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Nicolaas van Dyk, 19 Ligtoring Landman, 20 Boom Prinsloo, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Rayno Benjamin.
Prinsloo, who stood in for Brussow when the nuggety Bok was playing in Japan during the Currie Cup season last year, will be part of the loose trio that starts against the Nelson Mandela Metropole University on Tuesday.
Prinsloo, Teboho Mohoje and Carel Greeff will be the loose trio against NMMU in Port Elizabeth.
Cook looks set to get an extended run in the Cheetahs’ frontline selection, as it has been confirmed that Brussow will miss at least the first six weeks of Super Rugby after suffering a fracture toe playing for his Japanese club Docomo Red Hurricanes.
Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie confirmed that the players who will feature against the Kings on Saturday are basically their first-choice players.
“The guys facing NMMU on Tuesday are basically all back-up players in their respective positions,” Fourie told this website, adding that they are playing for places in the Cheetahs’ Super Rugby tour squad.
“We go on tour very early, after the second game against the Bulls on February 21,” the Cheetahs backline coach said, adding that they will name a tour squad of 27.
“Everybody want to be part of that tour group, and they are playing for places in that squad.
“It already started last week (in matches against Shimlas and Griquas last Friday), but it will be more critical in the two games we play this week,” he said of the encounters with NMMU on Tuesday and Southern Kings on Saturday.
Fourie confirmed that for some of the players Tuesday will be their last chance to play in the pre-season matches.
“The matchday 23 that will play against the Pumas next week will be the team we want to feature in the opening match against the Lions and the next match against the Bulls.
“So for a handful of players this match (against NMMU) is their last chance to stake a claim for that group.”
Cheetahs to face NMMU: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Piet Lindeque, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Inus Kritzinger, 8 Johannes Prinsloo, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Carel Greeff, 5 Rynhardt Landman, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Nico van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Francois Uys, 19 Hilton Lobberts, 20 Kevin Luiters, 21 Elgar Watts, 22 Raymond Rhule.
Date: Tuesday 21 January
Venue: NMMU Sports Dtadium
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT)