The Cheetahs may be without two key forwards, but they are banking on breakdown king Heinrich Brüssow to provide the spark in their season opener against the Lions on Saturday.
Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské said he will have a virtually full deck to select from when he names the side that will travel to Johannesburg to tackle the Currie Cup champion Lions in a Super Rugby Round One encounter.
"It is looking good," Drotské told this website, when asked about the injury situation.
"With the exception of [prop] Coenie [Oosthuizen] and [veteran loose forward] Juan [Smith], whom we've know for a long time won't be available [for the start of the season], it is a full-strength squad.
"We have been lucky to not pick up any additional injuries in the warm-up games," he added.
Smith is expected to be ready for action by approximately Round Seven, when the team return from the Australasian leg of their campaign, while Oosthuizen could be ready for action in week three - when the Cheetahs head abroad.
Oosthuizen injured his neck against the Lions in last year’s Currie Cup competition and underwent surgery to repair the damage,
Smith re-injured his Achilles last year and has not played since Week One in the 2011 Super Rugby season.
In the absence of Smith, who is the captain designate, Brüssow will play a vital role in supporting stand-in skipper Adriaan Strauss.
"Heinrich [Brüssow] does make a huge difference to our team," Drotské told this website.
"He has the benefit of a great pre-season build-up and he performed very well in the warm-up games. I am really looking forward to seeing him in action of the field."
But it is the added benefit of his leadership skills that pleases the coach.
"With his style of play, he encourages the other players to be aggressive and he will make a difference to any team."
Drotské, when asked about the importance of Saturday's match, again spoke of the need for the men from Bloemfontein to kick their bad habit of a slow start to the season.
"In the past that was a major draw-back for us," he said, adding: "We lost a few games early in the season, which we should have won, and last year there were several defeats.
"There is no doubt we want to get off to a better start.
"This is an away game and if we can start there [in Johannesburg] with a win, then we can start a positive trend for the rest of the season."
Asked if he felt this match would be very different from their Currie Cup encounters last year, Drotské said "not really".
"The Lions and ourselves did not have many Springboks out during the Currie Cup season.
"The one advantage for us is that we get a number of players from Griquas to strengthen us. Other than that there is not much of a difference."
By Jan de Koning
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