Cheetahs v Glasgow: Dave Rennie picks battle-hardened blend for tough PRO14 opener

The World Cup has reduced the head coach's options, but he has nonetheless been able to select some experienced combinations

Matt Fagerson
Matt Fagerson in action in the PRO14 final in May. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

DAVE Rennie is confident that he has picked a well-balanced Glasgow Warriors side for tomorrow night’s opening PRO14 fixture against the Cheetahs in South Africa. The World Cup has reduced the head coach’s options, but he has nonetheless been able to select some experienced combinations, including in the back row, where Rob Harley and Matt Fagerson join captain Callum Gibbins.

As well as Fagerson, the matchday 23 contains several others who were in the wider Scotland squad but failed to make Gregor Townsend’s final 31. Nick Grigg and Huw Jones are the centre combination, Kyle Steyn is on the wing, and hooker Grant Stewart also starts. Stewart’s deputy Johnny Matthews is in line for a first competitive start after impressing in pre-season against Uster, as is scrum-half Jamie Dobie.

It is a tough start to the campaign for the Warriors, whose opponents’ squad contains many players from the side that won the Currie Cup. The home side are also boosted this season by former Ulster scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, whose intelligent game management should give them a sharper cutting edge. But, while the Cheetahs will probably be more match sfit, Rennie believes he has selected a hard-working, competitive side.

“The side we’re putting out on the park has a really good blend of youth and experience,” Rennie said. “We’ve had our two hit-outs against Ulster and those were good for us – we were able to make a lot of shifts in our game, especially in the second match.
“We’ve got a good side going out there tomorrow night. There are players in there that have played a lot for us over the past couple of years, and we’re confident that they’ll dig deep and fight hard for each other.”

Besides the many absentees on World Cup duty, three players are listed as unavailable due to injury. Lee Jones has a hamstring problem but should be back in a few weeks, Stafford McDowall has concussion but is also likely to return shortly, and, as reported earlier this month, Jale Vakaloloma is out of action for several months after needing surgery to repair shoulder damage.

Cheetahs (versus Glasgow Warriors at Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, Friday, 6.05pm BST): R Smith; W Small-Smith, B van Rensburg, D Swanepoel, A Volmink; T Schoeman, R Pienaar (captain); O Nche, J Dweba, E de Jager, S Manjezi, W Steenkamp, G Olivier, J Pokomela, H Venter. Substitutes: R Venter, B Venter, L de Bruin, J du Preez, S Koen, J Wiese, T Meyer, L Fouche.

Glasgow Warriors: G Bryce; K Steyn, N Grigg, H Jones, R Hughes; B Thomson, N Frisby; O Kebble, G Stewart, D Rae, A Davidson, T Swinson, R Harley, C Gibbins (captain), M Fagerson. Substitutes: J Matthews, A Allan, A Nicol, B Flockhart, C Fusaro, J Dobie, R Jackson, R Nairn.

Referee: D Jones (Wales).


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About Stuart Bathgate 1412 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.