Cheetahs knocking on Coetzee’s door
SOME of the Free State Cheetahs players will go into Thurday night’s Currie Cup clash against the Golden Lions in Bloemfontein with added motivation, knowing that the Springbok selectors are keeping a close watch on them.
Loosehead prop Ox Nche and centre Francois Venter are in line to feature in the Bok team for the end-of-year tour to the UK later in 2016. Venter has apparently been informed to get his passport sorted out.
Venter’s inclusion would give coach Allister Coetzee better midfield options where he is missing a settled partnership. The fact that Venter is adept at first and second centre gives the selectors more reason to include him in their plans.
Although Nche’s Super Rugby opportunities were limited this season, he relished the game time coach Franco Smith afforded him in the Currie Cup.
Nche, whose nickname is a throwback to the other great Free State loosehead, Os du Randt, is a hard ball-carrier and reliable scrummager. He is confrontational in the loose and more often than not breaks the gain line and makes a yard or two. He is the kind of player the Boks can mould to succeed Beast Mtawarira and give Trevor Nyakane a good run for his money.
The former Baby Bok, Nche, has also given Smith the option of using him at tighthead, something the Boks have been moulding Nyakane to do in the national team but injuries have curbed the Blue Bulls forward.
Smith said the use of Nche on both sides of the scrum was necessitated by the competition format, which restricted the match day squad to just 22. It meant between prop forwards Nche, Charles Marais and Tom Botha, one had to miss out and another had to cover both sides of the scrum.
“Alternating Ox from loosehead to tighthead isn’t something [forwards coach] Daan Human wants and neither is it a directive from the national team,” said Smith. “But without the 23rd man on the bench in the competition you have to choose your players carefully. Charles [Marais] is playing well and so is Ox but I must choose one player to start and another on the bench.
“Ox is the type of player that shows intensity on the field and Charles is the kind you want to play as long as possible. We decided that we have a good opportunity in the competition for Ox to play both sides of the scrum.
“I think having a player like that is a non-negotiable for the competition. Between Ox, Charles and Tom we have to choose the player that can do the most on the field.”
The Cheetahs, who are unbeaten in the competition after five matches, will be able to measure themselves against the holders come 7pm kickoff. By beating the Lions, they will be able to gauge whether their Currie Cup progress can translate to a trophy at the end of the season.
But captain Torsten van Jaarsveld said they had their own standards and did not measure themselves against the new powerhouse in South African rugby. “We don’t measure ourselves against any team but according to our standards. We’ve been doing well this season, especially in the scrums. We’re going into the game as underdogs but are up for the battle.”