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Ruan Pienaar poised for first appearance for SA club in nine years

By Ian Cameron
Toby Flood tackles South Africa's Ruan Pienaar during his England days (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar will be making his debut in a Free State Cheetahs jersey when he steps onto the field after being named on the bench for Saturday’s encounter with the Golden Lions.

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Free State Cheetahs head coach Franco Smith has tweaked his team to face the Lions in the Currie Cup Round Four clash in Bloemfontein.

It could be the first appearance for Pienaar for a South African club side in nine years.

Between 2004 and 2010 he represented the Sharks in 32 Currie Cup games and 67 Super Rugby matches. He moved to Ulster where he played for seven seasons. The IRFU refused to renew his contract at the Belfast based club at which point he moved to France with his family to take up a lucrative deal with Montpellier.

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In the backline, Tapiwa Mafura will be starting on the wing and making his Currie Cup debut, replacing the injured William Small-Smith.

In the pack, Marnus van der Merwe moves to the starting line-up, with Abongile Nonkontwana providing cover on the bench.

Van der Merwe will wear the No.6 jersey with Junior Pokomela moving to the No.7 flank.

The Cheetahs are currently sitting on top of the Currie Cup standings with a maximum 10 points from their two matches so far.

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The Golden Lions are also unbeaten with nine points from their two matches.

Free State Cheetahs: 15 Darron Adonis, 14 Tapiwa Mafura, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer, (captain), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Marnus van der Merwe, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sitno Manjesi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Reinach Venter, 19 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 20 Abongile Nonkontwana, 21 Gerhard Olivier, 22 Ruan Pienaar, 23 Louis Fouche.

Date: Friday, August 2
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 19.15 (17.15 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Griffin Colby
TMO: Lourens van der Merwe

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finn 5 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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