Cheetahs face midfield conundrum

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 07:43
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INJURY UPDATE: Cheetahs coach Rory Duncan has a tricky midfield poser to solve ahead of their back-to-back Pro14 encounters with the Southern Kings.

The Kings host the Cheetahs in Port Elizabeth this Saturday and the return match is in Bloemfontein a week later.

Two key players - captain Francois Venter and utility back William Small-Smith are struggling with injuries suffered in the 21-27 loss to Benetton at the weekend.

Venter, who returned to the Cheetahs midfield in Treviso last week after featuring with the Springboks on the end-of-year tour in November, took a blow to the neck in the loss to the Italian franchise.

Duncan told rugby365 that it is "not too serious", but he is still likely to miss this week's trip to Port Elizabeth.

"We are hoping it [his injury-enforced lay-off] will only be a week, or less than a week," the coach said.

Small-Smith, who started on right wing against Benetton, left the field with a knee injury.

He will undergo a scan in Bloemfontein on Tuesday, but he could be sidelined for a while.

Nico Lee, who started alongside Venter in the midfield in Italy at the weekend, is likely to have a new centre partner.

Small-Smith and Nico Lee were the most regular centre pairing before when Venter was unavailable.

Tertius Kruger and Ali Mgijima are the other midfielders who have had a run in the Pro14 and either could get a look-in.

Craig Barry, who moved to fullback in place of Clayton Blommetjies (who has been side-lined due to a cold), will most likely return to the wing in the spot vacated by Small-Smith's absence.

A fit-again Blommetjies looks set to return at fullback.

By Jan de Koning

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Pool A
Team P W D L Pts
Glasgow Warriors 13 12 0 1 58
Munster 13 8 0 5 42
Cheetahs 13 8 0 5 40
Cardiff Blues 13 5 0 8 25
Connacht 13 4 0 9 24
Ospreys 13 4 0 9 21
Zebre 13 3 0 10 17
Pool B
Team P W D L Pts
Scarlets 13 11 0 2 53
Leinster 13 11 0 2 51
Ulster 13 8 1 4 40
Edinburgh 13 8 0 5 37
Treviso 13 6 0 7 29
Dragons 13 2 1 10 14
Kings 13 0 0 13 4