The Cheetahs will look forward to having all their big guns back for the 2012 Super Rugby campaign, with Juan Smith and Heinrich Brüssow the top priorities for the Bloemfontein side.
Smith was injured early on in the year when he ruptured his Achilles and faced a race against time to be fit for the Springboks World Cup defence, but ultimately ruled himself out of the tournament.
The 30-year-old Cheetahs skipper has taken his time to overcome the injury and avoid returning to action too early and risking another spell on the sidelines.
Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie confirmed to this website that Smith will start training in January and should be fit for the start of the season.
"We all start [pre-season training] on Monday next week and Juan Smith will probably be able to join us from January onwards and will definitely be ready when Super Rugby begins," Fourie said.
There is more good news for the Cheetahs, as Brüssow is expected to be available for training straight away.
The talented openside flank injured his ribs in the World Cup quarterfinal against Australia, and will hope his run of injuries is over after struggling with his knee and hamstring over the last two seasons.
"Heinrich has rested well and he will be god to go next week, so we're very pleased to have him back," Fourie added.
If Smith, Brüssow and fellow Springbok Ashley Johnson can all stay fit, then the Cheetahs' loose trio will be arguably the strongest in the competition.
The only other injury concern is that of prop Coenie Oosthuizen, who suffered a serious neck injury during the Currie Cup and won't be able to train until February.
"Coenie is the only player in doubt [for the start of super Rugby] because we don't want to take any chances with a neck injury," Fourie explained.
"He is the only player with a long term injury that we don't expect to have available for the first match next year."
The Cheetahs begin their 2012 season against the Lions in Johannesburg on February 25.
By Timmy Hancox
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