Ali Price is “in great nick, really fit and really lean” as he attempts to put a poor 2018 behind him returning to the Glasgow Warriors starting lineup in Bloemfontein.
Price will start at scrum-half for the first time this season against the Cheetahs after a year which has seen him got from Scotland’s first choice 9 to being a backup at Glasgow to George Horne.
But head coach Dave Rennie – who criticised Price’s conditioning after he’d been with Scotland earlier in the year – is keen to see him back.
“We’re really happy with him,” said the coach. “I know he is keen and I know he is highly motivated.
“I expect him to get out there and work really hard and deliver on his core skill sets. We don’t need any more than that.
“He’s come back, worked really hard and we just want to see the evidence of that this weekend.”
The Warriors have both George Horne and Nick Frisby on the bench for their game at altitude because an ankle knock keeps Stuart Hogg out and a bout of illness has laid low both Nick Grigg and Ryan Wilson.
That also means Huw Jones is in the 25 earlier than expected, the Scotland international centre primed to make his return after close-season wrist surgery.
“Huw looks really good, really sharp, in good condition, and he has worked hard on his distribution,” continued Rennie. “Our intention initially was not to include him this week, try to get a bit more work in especially handling, and then come in next week.
“With Nick’s illness and Hoggy out as well we have him on the bench, but he’s ready to go, he’s keen and he’ll be grateful for any game time.”
Glasgow maybe didn’t get the best use out of Jones after he joined them in mid-season, but Rennie has been impressed with his attitude.
“He’s worked hard in areas we felt he needed to make some shifts in, and so we’ll be keen to see how he goes in the next couple of weeks.
“What we know is he’s a really quality finisher, he’s got a lot of wheels and adds something different. I’m looking forward to seeing him go, he’s in a really good mindset.”
Wilson’s absence means that Rob Harley returns to the back row and Scott Cumming returns, the only change to a pack that’s been going so well in the opening two games, with South African prop Oli Kebble a standout at loose-head.
“We didn’t get a lot out of Oli last year mainly through injury, a couple of long-term ones, but what we know is that he’s very strong, an incredible lifter and across the field he’s got an outstanding skillset for such a big man, really good hands and can distribute like a back.
“He’s pumped up and played against these guys a number of times. Also he’s played a lot of footy at altitude and knows well the stresses the body is going to be under, but he’s definitely highly motivated being back home.”
Few forwards changes indicate not only how happy Rennie is with the way the pack have gone, but also that the Warriors need “to get as strong a side as possible out there”.
“It’s been a reasonably challenging start to the season for Cheetahs so regardless of the results over the past couple of weeks, what we know is that they’ve got a pretty dynamic pack, and they have been really tough at home,” added the coach.
Glasgow (vs Cheetahs, Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, tonight ko 6.35 BST, love on Premier Sports) Ruaridh Jackson; Tommy Seymour, Alex Dunbar, Peter Horne, DTH van der Merwe; Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson; Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray; Rob Harley, Callum Gibbins (capt), Adam Ashe.
Replacements: George Turner, Alex Allan, D’Arcy Rae, Matt Fagerson, Chris Fusaro, Goerge Horne, Nick Frisby, Huw Jones.