A young and unfancied Cheetahs are hoping to spring a surprise on title contenders the Brumbies in Sunday morning’s Super Rugby clash in Bloemfontein.
The South African franchise have made several changes to the side beaten by the Lions in Johannesburg last weekend, their third loss in four games this season.
With William Small-Smith sidelined with a toe fracture, Joubert Engelbrecht will make his debut at inside centre.
Paul Schoeman moves to No.8, with Boom Prinsloo to run on at No.6, plus a new-look front row.
Coach Franco Smith said he had no option but to rotate his players and ease the workload on his forward pack.
He felt there was no better chance to blood some youngsters than against the Australian conference leaders.
“The only way to take the step up is to play against the best in this competition,” Smith said.
“There has been improvement every week and to now measure us against one of the top sides in the competition – one of the main contenders to win this competition – is one of the things that inspires us more, but we will not lose focus and will keep on trying to get better.
“We will lift our standard again and keeping on working hard to get there as soon as possible.”
The Cheetahs have won just once this year – 32-31 over the Sunwolves – but are yet to post a victory at home.
The Brumbies, on the other hand, have dropped just one match – to the Stormers in Cape Town last week.
They have made two changes to their starting side, with Robbie Coleman coming in for injured winger Henry Speight who had surgery to repair a fractured bone above his eye on Thursday and Ita Vaea replacing Jarrad Butler (knee).
There’s also been some movement on the bench, with prop Ruan Smith, hooker Robbie Abel and James Dargaville.
Stephen Larkham’s men have vowed to not let off-field dramas at the club distract them after one of the most turbulent weeks in Brumbies history.
Chief executive Michael Jones was stood down by the board on Monday night following a scathing radio interview, only to return to work 36 hours later after winning a temporary injunction. The case returns to court on Tuesday.