Big Os back for Cheetahs

Cheetahs coach Rassie Erasmus has called up Springbok veteran Os du Randt into the team that will take on the winless Chiefs on Friday.

Erasmus made six changes to his team for this Super 14 Round Five encounter, with the most noteworthy changes in the pack.

The 34-year-old Du Randt, with 70 tests caps and more than 50 Super 14 games to his credit, will bring with him a wealth of experience into a team desperate to bounce straight back from the big hammering they took at the hands of the champion Crusaders outfit last week.

After being rested from the year-end tour Ireland and England last November, Du Randt missed the first month of the competition through injury. He played 40 minutes and 60 minutes for the Cheetahs Vodacom Cup team in the past fortnight and Erasmus is confident he is ready to return.

“We have some really great props – with Jannie du Plessis, Wian du Preez, Ollie le Roux and CJ van der Linde. But it is always nice to be able to call on a prop of his [Du Randt’s] calibre at such a difficult time of the season,” Erasmus told this website.

Du Randt’s return pushes Wian du Preez onto the bench, while CJ van der Linde will not feature in this game due to a neck injury. There was some concern around Jannie du Plessis’s shoulder injury earlier in the week, but the Erasmus said he will start.

Other changes to the pack sees Hendro Scholtz taking over from Sevens star Kabamba Floors at number six, Flip van der Merwe making his Super 14 debut at lock in place of Bian Vermaak and Ryno van der Merwe taking over from Darron Nell at number eight.

In the backline Tiger Mangweni replaces Philip Burger at fullback, while Michael Claassens gets his first start of the season at scrum-half in place of Falie Oelschig.

Erasmus said he is confident that his team can turn things around quickly, after last week’s 49-28 hammering from the Crusaders.

“We played against three of the four semi-finalists from last year in the past three weeks,” Erasmus said of the outings against the Bulls, Waratahs and Crusaders – a run which yielded a win against the ‘Tahs.

“The Crusaders are no weaker without their All Blacks than what they would have been with them,” he said of the seven Crusader All Blacks on a World Cup conditioning programme.

“They [the Crusaders] have plenty of talent available and they are one of those teams that can smash anybody when they click … as it happened with us.”

But he feels the Chiefs are not to be scoffed at, even though they have yet to win a game.

“They have lost all their games by less than seven points and could easily have won those. They also have some very good players – like [fly-half] Stephen Donald, [wing] Roy Kinikinilau and [midfield back] Niva Ta’auso.

“They remain a very dangerous team,” Erasmus said.

He added that he remains optimistic about his team’s prospects.

“We you lose the week is very short when you want to work on the things that went wrong. When you win the week is very long. But we have worked hard on our shortcomings this week and we are ready for the Chiefs,” Erasmus said.

Cheetahs: 15 Tiger Mangweni, 14 Eddie Fredericks, 13 Marius Joubert, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Ronnie Cooke, 10 Herkie Kruger, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Ryno van der Merwe, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Corniel van Zyl, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Os du Randt.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Kabamba Floors, 19 Darron Nell, 20 Falie Oelschig, 21 Gavin Passens, 22 Philip Burger.

Date: Friday, 2 March
Venue: Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 19.10 (17.10 GMT)
Referee: James Leckie (Australia)
Touch judges: Dan Cheever (Australia), Linston Manuels (South Africa)
Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

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