Former Southern Kings Kings scrumhalf Shaun Venter will start ahead of Cheetahs stalwart Sarel Pretorius in the opening Super Rugby match against the Lions in Bloemfontein.
Pretorius is joined on the bench by Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane, with Caylib Oosthuizen set to start ahead of him at loosehead prop.
“Trevor will definitely play in the second half against the Lions as an impact player,” coach Naka Drotske said.
“We gave Caylib the start based on the fact that he was the better of the two in the warm-up games.
“It is purely a decision made on merit and gives Trevor the opportunity to come on in the second half and show that he wants to start in the next game.”
Flank Johannes Prinsloo has been selected for the run-on side, while former Bulls loose forward Jean Cook could make an appearance off the bench.
“Boom [Prinsloo] played very well in the warm-up game against the Pumas,” the Cheetahs coach said.
“He made a couple of crucial turnovers on the ground and we will need that sort of thing against the Lions.
“They [the Lions] like to attack from the wider channels and if we can slow down their possession and turn it over, that will definitely benefit us.
“That being said, flank is one of the positions we are fortunate enough to have a lot of depth in and Jean [Cook] will certainly get game time on Saturday.”
There are no real surprises in the rest of the team, with Bok flyhalf Johan Goosen set to make a return to competitive rugby after a series of injury concerns that have kept him out of the game, while Bulls recruit Francois Venter will receive a starting berth at centre.
Goosen suffered knee ligament damage before the side’s match against the Waratahs early in the season last year.
The only other Springboks in the Cheetahs side are captain Adriaan Strauss, prop Coenraad Oosthuizen and Willem le Roux, who will start at fullback after featuring mainly on the wing for the Cheetahs last year.
Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske believes the Lions’ hunger for Super Rugby will make them a dangerous prospect on Saturday.
“It is good to have them back, but they will be a dangerous team, there is no doubt about that,” Drotske said.
“South African derbies in the competition are always important and also very risky. We’ve seen the underdogs beating the home side on quite a few occasions in the past so we are well aware of the threat they pose.”
Cheetahs: 15 Willem le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Johannes Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Coenraad Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Nicolaas van Dyk, 19 Rynhardt Landman, 20 Jean Cook, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Ryno Benjamin.
Date: Saturday, February 15
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 17.05 (15.05 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)