Cheetahs name Francois Venter as captain

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Francois Venter of the Cheetahs during the 2015 Absa Currie Cup semifinal rugby match between the Lions and Cheetahs at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa on 17 October, 2015.

Francois Venter of the Cheetahs during the 2015 Absa Currie Cup semifinal rugby match between the Lions and Cheetahs at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa on 17 October, 2015.

BLOEMFONTEIN - Francois Venter has been named captain of the Toyota Cheetahs ahead of this year’s Super Rugby tournament, taking over from Francois Uys.

While Uys will be running out for Japanese club Verblitz, Venter will lead a young Cheetahs outfit that will be without Willie le Roux and Cornal Hendricks, who have joined the Sharks and Stormers respectively.

The 24-year-old Venter enjoyed his first taste of international rugby last year when he was included in Michael Cheika’s Barbarians squad that played against Gloucester and Argentina in England in November.

He said that taking over as Cheetahs captain was a highlight of his career, which started in Bloemfontein.

“It is a big privilege for me to lead the team, it comes with great responsibility as well,” said Venter.

Although the responsibility presents a new challenge for the Grey College old boy, he showed during the 2015 season that he doesn’t lack commitment . He made 169 tackles – the most of any backline players – during the tournament.

Venter also scored seven tries.

He is confident that with the help of the more experienced men in the team, the Free State squad should do well.

“The leadership team is Lood de Jager, Boom Prinsloo, Oupa Mahoje, Torsten van Jaarsveld and Ryno Benjamin.

“I think we have really strong leaders, with Lood there he has a lot of confidence following his outstanding world cup campaign. Boom, Oupa and Torsten have captained the side or at least the Free State so I have great leaders behind me,” Venter explained.

Coach Franco Smith will guide the team for his first full season as their mentor after taking over from Naka Drotsk for the last two games of the 2015 campaign.

Smith has made numerous changes to the team and at the franchise since becoming coach, but Venter’s appointment as captain is by far the biggest and most significant to date.

Venter’s first task will be to lead the Cheetahs against the new boys on the block,  the Jaguars of Argentina, in their opening match of Super Rugby, on Friday February 26 at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.