Smith training with the Cheetahs
World Cup-winning Springbok Juan Smith has made a welcome return to the training field with the Cheetahs.
However, the 31-year-old loose forward will not feature in the team that will tackle the Lions in a pre-season friendly in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie confirmed that Smith – who has not played since 25 February 2011, when he tore his Achilles tendon in a Super Rugby match against the Bulls in Bloemfontein – is one of several frontline players who will be on the sidelines when the Cheetah run out at Ellis Park.
Smith had his first training run in almost two years with the Cheetahs, but only took part in the fitness session – as he eases himself back into the rigours of the game.
"A number of our injured players are not yet training with us," Fourie told this website, adding: "It will be a long way from our strongest XV that will face the Lions.
"We don't want to bring any injured players back too soon – it is a long season and you simply can't take any risks at this stage and lose a player for the rest of the season."
Among the other big names that will be absent on Saturday are forwards like Boks Coenie Oosthuizen and Heinrich Brussow, along with Andries Ferreira, Martin Muller, Phillip van der Walt, Pieter Labuschagne.
Backs who will be kept on ice include Bok Johan Goosen, new recruit Johan Sadie, utility Willie Roux and Sevens Bok Rayno Benjamin.
Fourie said this game will form part of the team's pre-season "trials".
"Because we use such a large number of Griquas players, we use the pre-season to determine who are number one, two and three in each position," he told this website.
"It is important for us to see where we stand with all the players in the squad, in terms of both Griquas and Free State Cheetahs.
"We also have a few new players who are with us for the first time.
"We want to look at who are the best players in each position for the starting XV.
"Yes. a win would be great, but our focus are on selection issues and getting our game plan going."
After this week's outing against the Lions the Cheetahs have three more pre-season outings. They play the Stormers in Bloemfontein on February 2, Griquas in Bloemfontein on February 6 and round off their build-up to the season proper when they take on the Bulls in Polokwane on February 9.
"We will name our best team for the encounter with the Bulls in Polokwane," he said, adding: "The other games will be use as trials and to give all the players as much game time as possible."
By Jan de Koning