THE Cheetahs will be without stars Willie le Roux and Heinrich Brüssow, while little-regarded Willie du Plessis takes the reins at flyhalf in the clash against the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.
But Lions winger Sampie Mastriet said the Cheetahs would still pose a danger in what he expected to be an open, free-flowing contest between the sides.
He has recovered from an ankle injury that kept him out of the Lions’ thrilling wins over the Bulls and the Sharks at home that put Johan Ackermann’s side in possible play-off contention. Mastriet, 24, is expected to be included at left wing when Ackermann today announces his team to face the Cheetahs.
Without Le Roux, the Cheetahs have had to move Joe Pietersen from flyhalf to fullback, while Mastriet’s former Bulls teammate Clayton Blommetjies comes into the match 23 as the utility substitute.
“I know Clayton [and his teammates] like to run with the ball,” Mastriet said. “Like us, they thrive on turnovers and are dangerous when things are loose. We can definitely expect them to run at us. Plus, they are also under pressure to win after their loss [to the Reds] at home last weekend.
“No team is weak in Super Rugby, so I don’t think it will make a huge difference that Willie le Roux isn’t there. It will depend on how they approach the game but each of our guys will have to step up . . .
“The coach told us to go into our next seven games with the same mentality that we went with into our previous nine. We have to play for each other and to always believe we can win.”
Mastriet had put in good shifts in the three Australasian tour wins that proved to be the bedrock of the Lions’ charge up the overall log.
The former Junior Springbok and Sevens player left the Bulls at the end of last season in search of more game time – a move that was beginning to pay dividends before injury intervened.
“I was a bit gutted,” he said. “At the time, the team was picking up very good momentum and you want to be part of a team that is doing very well. It is difficult to get your place back once you get injured because you’re on the same level as the other guys who play in your position.
“But I’m a team guy and I was pleased we beat the Bulls and the Sharks while I was sidelined. I still felt part of the team . . . They were two great wins that put us in good positions and that made me very happy.
“I want to get back and get my running game going again. This is definitely the one fixture where you can play with the ball and try a lot of attacking stuff because of the nature of our opponents. There will be space to exploit, which could work well for us because we have guys like Elton [Jantjies] and Lionel [Mapoe] who like to keep the ball in play.”