Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie is happy that he has managed to maintain the quality of their squad after a number of high-profile exits.
The Cheetahs had a busy time of it during what effectively became SA Rugby’s first transfer window due to the combination of the ongoing suspension of the season and a contentious 21-day exit clause.
Joseph Dweba was the most high-profile loss as the hooker – who is thought to be in the plans for a Springbok call-up – has taken the opportunity to sign for Bordeaux. Meanwhile, loose forward Jasper Wiese and talented back Benhard Janse van Rensburg have also left the club. It is also expected that second-row duo Walt Steenkamp and Sintu Manjezi will join the Vodacom Bulls.
However, it has not been all bad news as the Cheetahs have brought in a few big guns as well. Two-time World Cup-winner Frans Steyn has returned to Bloemfontein from Montpellier, while the Cheetahs have also brought experienced centre Howard Mnisi back from the Kings to further strengthen their midfield.
Jeandre Rudolph and Ian Groenewald have arrived to boost the pack, while it has also been heavily rumoured that loose forward Andisa Ntsila and lock Carl Wegner could also join.
There has been a noticeable investment in youth as well, as former Grey College players George Cronje and Marcell Muller have moved back to Bloem after originally joining French Top 14 academies. The duo are thought to be highly rated and could be included in the Cheetahs senior squad as early as next year.
When asked about the overall quality of the Cheetahs squad, Fourie said that while depth in certain areas was still a concern, he was happy that their overall quality from the previous season had been maintained.
‘We are losing quite a number of quality players unfortunately. That happens to us quite often,’ Fourie said.
‘I worked hard to try and limit the damage. Previously, in 2017 the Cheetahs did really well in PRO14 rugby and lost between 13 and 17 quality players – seven or eight Springboks – and they have gone through a dip over the last season or two. I did not want to go that route again.
‘So I tried to identify players quite early to replace the guys that I thought might leave us. I made our first-choice players offers quite early to get a feeling about who is staying and who is going to leave us. With the players that I felt were going to leave, I started looking for replacements as early as December last year.
‘I tried to keep the quality of the squad as high as possible. We will struggle if we get injuries. But if we are lucky with injuries then I am quite confident that we will have as good a squad as we had this previous season.’
Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images