Coach Franco Smith and his Cheetahs have a point to prove when they run out at Newlands tomorrow (3.05pm) to play the Stormers.
The talk from the Cape franchise’s camp this week has centred around their preparation for Kiwi opposition – almost overlooking the challenge captain Francois Venter and his Cheetahs will bring to the Mother City.
Furthermore, the Cheetahs have a cloud of uncertainty hovering above the franchise, with talks of their possible Super Rugby exclusion next season gaining daily momentum.
Then there is the “small” matter of log points on offer.
The Stormers currently top the Africa Conference 1 table with 17 points with the Cheetahs in second on nine and victory in the encounter for Robbie Fleck’s men will open up a healthy lead at the top of this table.
The Cheetahs, who are defending Currie Cup champions, come to Cape Town with their backs to the wall and with nothing to lose, they will look to claw their way out of their current predicament.
Fleck knows this and says: “The Cheetahs are a smart side and they will come with clever tactics… to try and unsettle our rhythm.
“We need to be at our best to beat them…
“We have to prepare for anything, especially when they get close to our line – it keeps us on our toes.
“It’s going to be a good game and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Newlands mentor proved that he doesn’t underestimate his opposition by picking his strongest possible side for this encounter.
Back comes fullback SP Marais, wing Cheslin Kolbe, scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, No.8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, locks Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth and prop Frans Malherbe, while rookie flanker Cobus Wiese will make his first start in this competition.
Of his decision to start Wiese in place of Springbok Bok Nizaam Carr, who will play off the bench, Fleck says: “He [Wiese] has been impressive in pre-season and made an impact off bench against Sunwolves – significant enough to select him this weekend.
“Nizaam is coming back into the frame [after recovering from injury] and it’s better for this game to go with Cobus.”