Business Day

Chee­tahs knock­ing on Coet­zee’s door

- SIBUSISO MJIKELISO Se­nior Sports Writer mjike­lisos@bdlive.co.za

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.”

 ?? Pic­ture: BACKPAGEPI­X ?? STEADFAST: Chee­tahs loose head prop Ox Nche is in line for a Spring­bok call-up for the endof-year tour to Bri­tain.
Pic­ture: BACKPAGEPI­X STEADFAST: Chee­tahs loose head prop Ox Nche is in line for a Spring­bok call-up for the endof-year tour to Bri­tain.

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