Preview: Cheetahs v Blue Bulls

Date published: August 7 2015

The Cheetahs host the Blue Bulls in what promises to be an exciting Cuurie Cup encounter in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Both sides have new head coaches, although the home side's boss Franco Smith can argue that he has a little more experience than his counterpart Nollis Marais as he took over the Cheetahs' reins from Naka Drotske during the latter stages of the Super Rugby tournament.

Much is expected from Smith as he also guided the University of Free State to glory in the Varsity Cup competition earlier this year.

He made a statement in only his second Super Rugby match in charge of the Cheetahs, when he guided them to a 42-29 victory over the Bulls in Pretoria.

He expects the Bulls to offer sterner resistance this weekend though.

"There will definitely be something different from them but they will stick with certain qualities where I believe they will still carry the ball with their physical and big players," Smith said.

"They will certainly make a mindset shift, I’ve seen Nollis Marais and David Manuel coaching in the Varsity Cup and they have a look-to-play approach.

"There will be more passes in their game, and they will play with more freedom after they were forced into a building phase."

Marais was in charge of the Bulls' Vodacom Cup campaign and did well to take them to the semi-finals. Like Smith, Marais has also said he will employ an expansive game-plan which means the Bulls will move away from their traditional 10-man game.

The Bulls will fancy their chances, especially with Springboks like Francois Hougaard, Deon Stegmann, Werner Kruger and Dean Greyling in their ranks while the captaincy of Lappies Labuschagne against his former team-mates will also be scrutinised.

Hougaard, in particular, has a point to prove and starts at scrum-half which many enthusiasts feel is his best position. He will be expected to provide the spark to ignite the Bulls' backline which has an inexperienced look to it.

Prediction: With both sides set to play expansively, don't be surprised if this is a high-scoring affair. The Cheetahs are more used to that style of play though and will win by eight points!

The teams:

Free State Cheetahs: 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Willem Serfontein, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Neil Rautenbach, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Maks van Dyk, 18 BG Uys, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Tienie Burger, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Fred Zeilinga.

Blue Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Lappies Labuschagne (c), 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Nqoba Mxoli, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Roelof Smit, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Dries Swanepoel.

Date: Saturday, August 8
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 14:15 local (12:15 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Jaco Pretorius
TMO: Willie Vos