Cheetahs v Western Force - teams
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENTS: Ruan Pienaar resumes his role at flyhalf for the Cheetahs when they face the Western Force for the first of their four Challenge Series games in Bloemfontein on Friday night.
Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie has retained eleven players that formed part of the Currie Cup final that will face the Force this weekend, including the veteran Pienaar as general.
Fourie moved Pienaar from scrumhalf to flyhalf halfway through the Currie Cup due to injuries.
It had such a profound effect on the side that they won the Currie Cup that Fourie is content to back the Springbok at 10.
The Cheetahs’ coach believes the Challenge Series is good preparation for their participation in the 2023/24 EPCR Challenge Cup.
The team from Bloemfontein, which reached the knockout stage of last season’s Challenge Cup before losing to eventual winners Toulon, together with Georgia’s Black Lion, accepted invitations to compete in the Challenge Cup again.
The Cheetahs will face Oyonnax, Section Paloise, Sharks and Zebre Parma in Pool 1 with Amsterdam in the Netherlands as their agreed ‘home’ base when pitted against European opponents.
Their pool stage match against the Sharks will be played in either Bloemfontein or Durban depending on the outcome of the current fixture scheduling process.
Meanwhile, new recruits Lopeti Faifua and Harry Potter will suit up for the first time in Force colours, although caps will not be officially handed out in the series.
Scrumhalf Henry Robertson will return for the first time at this level since suffering a long-term knee injury, while Fortescue Academy pair Tiaan Tauakipulu and Ronan Leahy have been named to start.
Premier Grade players Ford Hemi (West Scarborough), Regi Churchward (UWA), Fa’amanu Kalolo (Perth Bayswater), Jack Grooby (Palmyra) and Gio Leituala (Cottesloe) have all been named on the bench.
Force head coach Simon Cron said: “The main aim of the tour is to give our wider squad opportunities to play more rugby and to give some standout club and Academy players exposure to a higher level of rugby.
“On this tour we can trial some new combinations within the squad. We also get to give some players a test at a higher level of rugby so we can get a good understanding of where they are in their development.”
*The 2023 Challenge Series will again boast a total prize money of R1 million, with R250 000 awarded for each match. This significant prize money not only adds to the intensity of the competition but also recognises the outstanding efforts of the teams.
Cheetahs: 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Cohen Jasper, 13 Evardi Boshoff, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Litha Nkula, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Rewan Kruger, 8 Friedle Olivier, 7 Sibabalo Qoma, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete (captain), 4 Rynier Bernardo, 3 Hencus van Wyk, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Alulutho Tshakweni.
Replacements: 16 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Mzwanele Zito, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Jeandrẻ Rudolph, 22 George Lourens, 23 David Brits
Western Force: 15 Harry Potter, 14 George Poolman, 13 Sam Spink, 12 Bayley Kuenzle, 11 Ronan Leahy, 10 Max Burey, 9 Henry Robertson, 8 Jeremy Williams, 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Donny Freeman, 5 Lopeti Faifua, 4 Joshua Thompson, 3 Tiaan Tauakipulu, 2 Tom Horton, 1 Marley Pearce
Replacements: 16 Ford Hemi, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Regi Churchward, 19 Jackson Pugh, 20 Fa’amanu Kalolo, 21 Jack Grooby, 22 Reesjan Pasitoa, 23 Gio Leituala
Date: Friday, August 24
Venue: Bloemfontein Stadium
Kick: 17.00 (23.00 AWST; 15.00 GMT)
Referee: Morne Ferreira
Assistant referees: Paul Mente, Griffin Colby
TMO: Quinton Immelman.