Willie le Roux, fresh off a week-long break, will look to spark the Cheetahs into life against the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
Le Roux has failed to live up to his own ridiculously high standards this season. Though his performances have been adequate in a struggling Cheetahs side, as a player, Le Roux is held to a higher level of performance than those around him.
The 2014 World Rugby Player of the Year nominee was yellow-carded during the Cheetahs' demoralising defeat to the Crusaders, while he missed the loss to the Chiefs as part of Saru's new player management regulations.
At the same stage of last season, Le Roux had run 492m, as opposed to just 164 this season. While the Cheetahs have been starved of the ball for long periods, the numbers reflect his struggles, while the tendency to run across field has crept back into his game.
Despite this, Le Roux's return will boost a Cheetahs side that shows eight changes to the one that went down to the Chiefs in Hamilton. Elsewhere in the backline, Johann Sadie and Francois Venter replace Rayno Benjamin and Michael van der Spuy in the midfield, while Tian Meyer takes over from Shaun Venter at scrumhalf, with Sarel Pretorius providing cover off the bench.
Coach Naka Drotské has also opted to change his entire front row, with Coenie Oosthuizen, Danie Minnie and Torsten van Jaarsveld all handed starting berths, while Carl Wegner replaces Steven Sykes at lock in the only other change to the forward pack.
The Brumbies will be without Tevita Kuridrani for the next seven weeks, after he was ruled out with an injury. Henry Speight will start at outside centre, with rookie James Dargaville coming in on the right wing.
Up front, David Pocock will start his first match since round one, and it will be interesting to see how he fares against Heinrich Brüssow, who had a strong match against the Chiefs. The final change sees Blake Enever replace Rory Arnold in the second row.
The Cheetahs are yet to win in Canberra, having suffered defeat on six occasions, including the 2013 play-off qualifier. They did manage to spring a surprise in Bloemfontein last year, where Le Roux, along with the departed Johan Goosen, inspired a 27-21 victory.
Drotské's team will need to improve in a number of areas – discipline, defence and at the scrums – if they're to challenge the Australian conference leaders on their own soil. If they can remain in the match, Le Roux may just be able to provide the X factor they require to get them across the line.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Brumbies 7, Cheetahs 3
In Canberra: Brumbies 6, Cheetahs 0
STATS AND FACTS
– The 61 points conceded by the Cheetahs against the Brumbies in 2010 was the most the South African outfit has shipped in a single game.
– The last three matches between the sides have been settled by losing bonus-point margins.
– The Cheetahs are on a four-match losing streak, which has been at an aggregate margin of 89 points.
– The Cheetahs have the worst tackling success rate (83.9%) in the competition and have averaged the most misses per match (22.3) so far.
– The Brumbies are the second-worst side when it comes to misses per game, an average of 21 while their tackling success rate sits at 85.1%.
– The Cheetahs’ scrum success rate (70%) is the worst in the competition, while just three sides have fared better than the Brumbies (91%) at this set piece.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Brumbies||Christian Leali'ifano (60)||Ben Alexander (3)||Robbie Coleman (302)||Jarrad Butler (72)|
|Cheetahs||Joe Pietersen (47)||Boom Prinsloo (3)||Raymond Rhule (196)||Torsten van Jaarsveld (52)|
Brumbies – 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 James Dargaville, 13 Henry Speight, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joseph Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Blake Enever, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Ita Vaea, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Nigel Ah Wong, 23 Lausii Taliauli.
Cheetahs – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 11 Joe Pietersen, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Boom Prinsloo, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Mienie.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 BG Uys, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Tienie Burger, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Rayno Benjamin.
Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp/BackpagePix