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Cheetahs geared for first top class action as loan players return

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Cheetahs welcome back their loan players Marnus van der Merwe and Rewan Kruger for their first Challenge Cup game against Zebre in Parma at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi on Saturday.

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Van der Merwe and Kruger were on loan to Ospreys and coach Hawies Fourie was delighted that they came through those matches unscathed.

This will be the Cheetahs’ first official top-class game of the new season. Their hosts returned home after a two-week tour of South Africa in the United Rugby Championship where they suffered defeats against the Lions and Stormers.

Fourie said: “We are happy with the squad, as we have said, most players played in the EPCR Challenge Cup last year, they know the conditions, they know what to expect and we have prepared over the last months.

“We would like to go one step further, last year we reached the round of 16 but now want to go to the quarter-finals, the whole squad would agree and see what we can do but we will take it one day at a time.”

In 39-year-old scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar the Cheetahs have a hugely experienced player. The veteran of  88 Tests for South Africa has already starred for Irish province Ulster and French side Montpellier in EPCR competitions, amassing 301 points in 53 games.

Speaking about what awaits them in Parma, captain Victor Sekekete said: “I think having played there for us and staying there has helped us a lot as some players, so we know what we are going to face when we get there at what conditions we are going to face.

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“Starting the EPCR Challenge Cup like that is very fortunate for us and looking forward to getting on with it.

“We are going to focus on the games that they played at home because that’s the conditions we are going to face, and that’s how they are going to be because I think they have confidence playing at home. We are ready to take on the challenge.”

The Cheetahs will host the Sharks at home in Bloemfontein on Sunday, December 17 in their next encounter.

Cheetahs: 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Siba Xamlashe, 13 Evardi Boshoff, 12 Reinhardt Fortuin, 11 Cohen Jasper, 10 George Lourens, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Jeandrè Rudolph, 7 Friedle Olivier, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Rynier Bernardo, 3 Laurence Victor, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Schalk Ferreira
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Sibabalo Qoma, 22 Rewan Kruger, 23 Ali Mgijima

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Date: Saturday, December 0
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Kick-off: 15.00 (13.00 GMT)
Referee: Jack Makepeace
Assistant referees: Sara Cox, Gareth Holsgrove
TMO: Dean Richards.

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