Cheetahs v United States Falcons - teams and prediction
FRIDAY FRENZY: Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie is looking at the ‘bigger picture’ as he fields a much-changed team in his side’s third match in the Challenge Series.
The Cheetahs beat the Bulls in their opening Challenge Series match and lost against an Emerging Ireland selection.
On Friday they face a selection playing under the American national team banner, competing as the USA Falcons.
After this match, the Cheetahs also face Griquas and have a couple of ‘pre-season friendlies’ lined up ahead of their European venture.
For the USA Falcons, there is also a ‘bigger picture’, as they also face the Pumas – the Currie Cup champions – ahead of their final World Cup 2023 qualification tournament in Dubai in November.
It ensures Friday’s clash in Bloemfontein is a lot more significant than just another match in the Challenge Series – in which ZAR250,000 is up for grabs.
Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie said it was important to ‘strike a balance’ between building momentum towards their entry into the European Challenge Cup in December and giving all the players much-needed game time.
Injuries to a host of players – Gideon van der Merwe (knee), Andisa Ntsila (knee), Nqobisizwe Moxoli (neck), Alulutho Tshakweni (shoulder), Roelof Smit (shoulder) and Enver Brandt (hamstring) – has left Fourie with 30-odd fit players.
“We had a very good pre-season and we worked very hard, so it would have been unfair not to give them an opportunity to play,” the coach said, adding: “It is difficult to assess players only on training form.
“We have committed to giving everybody game time to assess them. Everybody knew which games they would play”
He said the encounter with Griquas next week features the frontline selection ahead of the entry into Europe.
“At this stage, the bigger picture is more important,” Fourie told @rugby365com.
Even though the USA Falcons selection differs from the teams that played in the initial Americas World Cup qualifiers back in July, Fourie believes he has seen enough of them to know what his team is up against.
“Their style of play won’t change,” he said of the Gary Gold-coached visitors.
“It is the same coaching staff and the same philosophy,” he said of the former Springbok assistant coach, Gold, who is now the USA Eagles head coach.
“They have some really big guys in their pack and even some in among the backs that will ask questions of us.
“They like to move the ball around, while some of the guys are really good at offloading in contact.”
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Gold, the United States Eagles coach, described the two-match tour of South Africa as an ‘amazing opportunity’.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring together players who have competed in the MLR [America’s Major League] in the first half of the year,”Gold said.
“It offers them the opportunity to play against some of the best provincial teams in South Africa.
“This experience will be unique to quite a few of the players who have not spent much time playing outside of the United States, and an important set of fixtures for our qualifier preparations.”
The Challenge Series is the final warm-up ahead of the Eagles World Cup qualifier in Dubai in November – in which they will compete against Hong Kong, Kenya and Portugal for the final place in France 2023.
“Our first job is to win in November, so it’s all about preparation and time together at this point,” the Eagles boss said.
“One of the biggest takeaways from our previous qualifier series is the importance of proper preparation and assembly before going into these high-pressure situations.
“We want to give our guys the absolute best opportunity to succeed and that comes through time together, both in training and in competition.”
@rugby365com: Cheetahs by eight points
Cheetahs: 15 Cohen Jasper, 14 Munier Hartzenberg, 13 Evardi Boshoff, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 George Lourens, 9 Branden de Kock, 8 Teboho Mohoje, 7 Sibabalo Qoma, 6 Marnus van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete (captain), 4 Rynier Bernardo, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Janus Venter, 17 Cameron Dawson, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Jeandre Rudolph, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin, 23 Robert Ebersohn.
United States Falcons: 15 Marcel Brache, 14 Mitch Wilson, 13 Bryce Campbell (captain), 12 Paul Lasike, 11 Christian Dyer, 10 Luke Carty, 9 Nate Augspurger, 8 Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz, 7 Cory Daniel, 6 Viliami Helu, 5 Nick Civetta, 4 Keni Nasoqeqe, 3 Paul Mullen, 2 Dylan Fawsitt, 1 Jack Iscaro.
Replacements: 16 Kaleb Geiger, 17 Chance Wenglewski, 18 Angus Maclellan, 19 Siaosi Mahoni, 20 Cam Dolan, 21 Duncan van Schalkwyk, 22 Tavite Lopeti, 23 Chris Mattina.
Date: Friday, October 14
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 18.00 (09.00 MST; 16.00 GMT)
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
Assistant referees: Paul Mente and Christopher Alison
TMO: Ben Crouse