Pienaar back for Cheetahs
The 39-year old kingpin of the Toyota Cheetahs, Ruan Pienaar, returns to the starting line-up as the only change to the side to face the Vodacom Bulls in their Currie Cup semifinal in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Pienaar, who missed last week’s league encounter between the two sides, which the Cheetahs won 31-27, because of a family bereavement, could be playing his last game for the Free Staters as his contract ends in October and he hasn’t taken a decision about his future.
For now though, his return means that he will be looking to push his side into a home final next week after they ended top of the log.
Pienaar replaces Siya Masuku, who was expected to start at 10, but according to the team release has an injury. Masuku was one of the stars of the Loftus win, scoring an exceptional individual try in the game.
Also on Saturday midfielder Reinhardt Fortuin will run onto the field in his 50th match for his side.
??TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT??— Toyota Cheetahs (@CheetahsRugby) June 16, 2023
?? Currie Cup
??Toyota Cheetahs vs Vodacom Bulls ??
?? Saturday, 17 June 2023
??? Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Live on @SuperSportTV
?? https://t.co/BAm5q4XpDZ@ToyotaSA pic.twitter.com/rpBaDHMkqD
“Well, after joining the Cheetahs in 2020 during Covid, it was kind of strange starting my professional career and not knowing when we would be playing again, especially after losing our spot in PRO14. My journey did not start as envisioned, but I am very happy at the Cheetahs. So, to be here playing my 50th game for the team after three years is surreal,” Fortuin said about the milestone.
“I feel fortunate to play the game I loved from when I was a young boy and to make friends that would last a lifetime.”
'SWITCH ON FROM THE START'
Coach Hawies Fourie said his team needed to be more disciplined this week against the Bulls after conceding 15 penalties in the Loftus game.
“The biggest thing was the number of penalties we conceded. We must be sharp and well-disciplined this week. There will always be penalties, and there will always be mistakes, but how we react to those will determine the outcome of the game.
“Last weekend, we conceded penalties and had to defend our try line with our lives, which we did. That gave us a lot of confidence. I’m pretty sure the Bulls will devise plans to try and break our defence. This will be a new game, and we start from scratch.
“I feel if we have a full Toyota Stadium and with the support behind us, we will not have a slow start. The way we trained this week, we want to do things a bit faster and be switched on from the start.
“We would love it if we could fill the stadium. It is a special game against the Bulls. Semifinals don’t come often, so we must make the most of it as a team. We want our support to come in thousands, dressed in orange and behind the team.”
This will be the fourth time the teams have met in a semifinal. The Free State’s first Currie Cup semifinal was against the Northern Transvaal on 21 August 1954 when Northern Transvaal beat the Free State 9-8 at Springbok Park in Bloemfontein.
Fifty-four years later, the sides met in a semifinal on 13 October 2007 when the Cheetah beat the Bulls 11-6 in Bloemfontein, and the following year the Bulls were victorious, winning 31-19 at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria.
A 19-year-old Robert Ebersohn was part of the Cheetah team in 2008.
Toyota Cheetahs: Tapiwa Mafura; Daniel Kasende, David Brits, Reinhardt Fortuin, Cohen Jasper; Ruan Pienaar, Rewan Kruger; Friedle Olivier, Siba Qoma, Gideon van der Merwe, Victor Sekekete (captain), Rynier Bernardo, Conraad van Vuuren, Marnus van der Merwe, Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: Louis van der Westhuizen, Alulutho Tshakweni, Hencus van Wyk, Jeandre Rudolph, George Cronje, Daniel Maartens, Evardi Boshoff, Robert Ebersohn.