Paul Munyuki Sports Reporter
FORMER Vodacom Bulls rugby midfielder William Small-Smith is likely to face his former paymasters for the first time if he debuts for the Toyota Cheetahs in Lafarge Zimbabwe Champions Cup at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on Saturday.
Small-Smith was named in the 33-man squad that is expected in Harare tomorrow for their Super Rugby pre-season clash against the Blue Bulls at the giant stadium.
After four seasons as a “Blou Bul”, the centre returned to Bloemfontein — a franchise he represented at the Under-16 Grant Khomo festival and at the Under-18 Craven Week Festival in 2010.
Having not featured for the Bulls as much as he would have loved to, Small-Smith decided to dump the Loftus side and stands a chance of pairing with another former team-mate and this year’s Cheetahs captain, Francois Venter.
Venter took over the captaincy from Francois Uys who was the Cheetahs Super Rugby captain last season but has been left out of the touring squad.
According to reports from South Africa, Venter said that taking over as the Cheetahs captain was a highlight of his career which started in Bloemfontein.
“It is a big privilege for me to lead the team, it comes with great responsibility as well,” said Venter.
The Cheetahs side has a number of changes and the game against the Bulls on Saturday will give them a huge opportunity to try and test their new acquisitions ahead of the Super Rugby season that gets underway on February 26.
Coach Franco Smith named a side without the injured Ryno Benjamin and Springbok flank Oupa Mohoje for the tour, but included the likes of former Puma Uzair Cassiem, Namibian hooker/flanker Torsten van Jaarsveld, former Stormers hooker Neil Rautenbach and backline stalwarts Sergeal Petersen, Clayton Blommetjies and Shaun Venter.
Experienced players such as Springbok lock Lood de Jager, wing Raymond Rhule, flank Boom Prinsloo, lock Hilton Lobberts and prop Maks van Dyk have been combined with a lot of young and inexperienced players.
“I want to give everyone the opportunity to find themselves. These two games (the Bulls at the weekend and the Kings next Friday) are not trials, I want the players I have chosen all to have as close to 80 minutes to play in the two games,” Smith told netwerk24.
Willie le Roux and Cornal Hendricks have joined the Sharks and Stormers respectively, seasoned flyhalf Sias Ebersohn is also not in the touring party, staying in Bloemfontein to attend a family wedding.
Benjamin injured his calf while with the Springbok Sevens side and the diagnosis is that he will be out for another month, thereby missing the opening game against the Argentinean franchise, the Jaguares but are set to have another warm-up game next weekend against the Southern Kings.
Niel Marais and former Shark Fred Zeilinga come in as the two fly-halves in the side.
In the absence of Sarel Pretorius, who has ventured abroad, the scrumhalf berth will be fought out between Shaun Venter and Tian Meyer, while the young Henco Venter will have to fill the void left by flank Heinrich Brussow who will remain in Japan and won’t return for another stint of Super Rugby.
Tienie Burger, Uzair Cassiem, Luan de Bruin, Lood de Jager, Jacques du Toit, Reniel Hugo, Niell Jordaan, Armandt Koster, Hilton Lobberts, Charles Marais, Danie Mienie, Boom Prinsloo, Neil Rautenbach, Paul Schoeman, Maks van Dyk, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Henco Venter, Carl Wegner
Clayton Blommetjies, Maphutha Dolo, Reinhardt Erwee, Gerrie Labuschagne, Niel Marais, Tian Meyer, Sergeal Petersen, Raymond Rhule, William Small-Smith, JP Smith, Michael van der Spuy, Ruan van Rensburg, Francois Venter, Shaun Venter, Fred Zeilinga.
Trevor Nyakane, Pierre Schoeman, Lizo Gqoboka, Dean Greyling, Nqoba Mxoli, Morne Mellett, Marcel van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Entienne Swanepoel, Adriaan Strauss, Bandise Maku, Corniel Els, Jaco Visagie, Callie Visagie, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Jannes Kirsten, Marvin Orie, Nicholaas Janse van Rensburg, Le Roux Roets, Irne Herbst, Grant Hattingh, Lappies Labuschagne, Roelof Smit, Ruan Steenkamp, Deon Stegmann, Freddy Ngoza, Nick de Jager, Arno Botha, Clyde Davids, Hanro Liebenberg.
Rudy Paige, Ivan van Zyl, Piet van Zyl, Tian Schoeman, Francois Brummer, Joshua Stander, Handre Pollard, Burger Odendaal, Jan Serfontein, Daniel Kriel, JT Jackson, Dries Swanepoel, JJ Engelbrecht, Jesse Kriel, Jamba Ulengo, Jade Stigling, Kafense Mahlo, Travis Ismaiel, Luther Obi, Bjorn Basson, Duncan Matthews, Divan Rossouw, Warrick Gelant.