Drotske not happy about making five changes

Making five changes to a starting lineup is never the best thing for a team, Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske admitted on Wednesday after he announced his side that will take on the Lions in Saturday’s Super Rugby match in Bloemfontein.

“It is never ideal to make as many changes as we did this week, as continuity is important, but it is important to note that three of the changes were purely because of injuries,” Drotske said.

“Frans (Viljoen) was not available for selection this week and we decided to give Heinrich (Brussow) a run and it will be a case of throwing him in at the deep end.”

Drotske said he looks forward to seeing how Brussow, the Springboks’ specialist fetcher, will do after spending more than a year in rehabilitation because of a knee injury.

“Heinrich is a world class player and it’s great to have him back and we are looking forward to his contribution this weekend,” he said.

With Brussow returning to the side, Kabamba Floors goes back to being the team’s go-to man in the closing stages of the match.

Drotske has also given centre Robert Ebersohn’s twin brother, Sias, his first Super Rugby start at the expense of regular flyhalf — and last week’s captain — Naas Olivier.

As a result, former Sharks centre Andries Strauss has been promoted to the captaincy, and will take the field as the Cheetahs’ fourth skipper of the season.

“We are very blessed to still have so many leaders in the group when considering that eight of our top players are injured,” Drotske said.

“Andries has shown that he is a leader and we are certain that he will do a great job on Saturday.”

As for demoting Olivier to the bench, Drotske said it will take some pressure off the pivot.

“Naas has been struggling a bit with his form, but he is a great player and we know that he will be back soon. He just needs to regain confidence,” Drotske said.

“He also knows that we have to give youngsters like Sias a chance to develop at this level.”

Drotske said the decision to start Martin Muller at lock ahead of Waltie Vermeulen is part of his team rotation policy.

“Martin had a great game last week when he came on at lock against the Stormers, but with that said, the players knew from the start that we would be making use of our group system,” Drotske said.

“There are certain positions where the competition is close.”

The Cheetahs mentor said the same rules apply to Riaan Viljoen who starts ahead of Hennie Daniller at fullback.

Viljoen provides the team with a long range kicking option, as he illustrated in last week’s 21-15 loss to the Stormers when he slotted a penalty from almost 50 metres out.

The Cheetahs, like the Lions, have lost their first three matches of the season and will be desperate to gain some momentum before going on tour.

Cheetahs team:

Riaan Viljoen, Philip Snyman, Robert Ebersohn, Andries Strauss (capt), Ryno Benjamin, Sias Ebersohn, Sarel Pretorius, Ashley Johnson, Philip van der Walt, Heinrich Brussow, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Martin Muller, WP Nel, Ryno Barnes, Coenie Oosthuizen.

Replacements: Skipper Badenhorst, Kobus Calldo, Kabamba Floors, Francois Uys, Tewis de Bruyn, Naas Olivier, Fabian Juries.

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