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Cheetahs v Bulls - Teams and Prediction

SEMIFINAL PREVIEW: Cheetahs head coach Hawies Fourie knows that his team can’t afford another slow start against the Bulls when they meet in Saturday’s Currie Cup semifinal in Bloemfontein.

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The Cheetahs were 0-19 down in the opening quarter before they fought their way back to beat the Bulls 31-27 at Loftus Versfeld in the final round last weekend.

Fourie’s side were also helped by Elrigh Louw’s red card a few minutes before half-time in that match.

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“The team that will dictate the tempo of the game will have the best chance to win it,” Fourie told reporters ahead of Saturday’s semifinal at the Free State Stadium.

“We can’t afford a slow start again.

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“We have put some things in place to get the mindset ready to fire from the start.

“If we have a packed Free State Stadium and with the support behind us then there will definitely not be a slow start, but it depends on us as well.

“The way we trained this week, we wanted to focus on that and do things a little bit faster and switch on from the start.”

Meanwhile, centre and flyhalf Reinhardt Fortuin will be running onto the field in his 50th match for the Cheetahs.

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He will start in the midfield again and he will have Ruan Pienaar on his inside after the veteran missed last weekend’s clash due to a family bereavement.

“After joining the Cheetahs in 2020 during Covid-19, it was kind of strange starting my professional career and not knowing when we would be playing again, especially after losing our spot in Pro14,” Fortuin explained.

“My journey did not start as envisioned, but I am very happy at the Cheetahs. So, to be here playing my 50th game for the team after three years is surreal.

“I feel fortunate to play the game I loved from when I was a young boy and to make friends that would last a lifetime.”

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The favourites tag

With home-ground advantage, and two wins over the Bulls already, the Cheetahs will be seen as the favourites by many.

However, Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White has been around for a while to know that anything can happen in the play-offs.

“Anyone would say playing at home is a massive bonus,” said White.

“We know how nice it is to play in front of your home fans as well.

“History is an incredible thing. I remember teams that finished fourth ended up winning the Currie Cup. Some guys have won away from home in the semifinal and the Final.

“That is the nice thing about this competition. No one knows what is going to happen tomorrow [Saturday].

“It’s two big games and the Final could be anywhere next week.

“It could be in Nelspruit, Durban or the Free State.

‘That is why I love it so much and hopefully, it brings out the best in our group tomorrow [Saturday].”

White admitted that his team has struggled to put in an 80-minute performance this season and he is hoping things will change on Saturday.

“In the last couple of weeks, we played really well in patches and then we played poorly in patches,” said White.

“Even when we scored 60 points against the Griffons, we played really well at times and then conceded points in other parts of the game.

“The [first] 20 minutes [against the Cheetahs last week] was fantastic.

“I don’t think you are always going to get those starts and maybe not in a semifinal either.

“I think we got to play as well as we can and just focus on what we got to do.”

League phase meetings in 2023 :

June 10: Cheetahs won 31-27, Pretoria
March 24: Cheetahs won 32-7, Bloemfontein

Prediction

@rugby365com: Cheetahs by six points.

Teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 David Brits, 12 Reinhardt Fortuin, 11 Cohen Jasper, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Rewan Kruger, 8 Friedle Olivier, 7 Sibabalo Qoma, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete (captain), 4 Rynier Bernardo, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Jeandre Rudolph, 20 George Cronje, 21 Daniel Maartens, 22 Evardi Boshoff, 23 Robert Ebersohn.

Bulls: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 David Kriel, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Keagan Johannes, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Nizaam Carr, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16  Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Francois Klopper, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 WJ Steenkamp, 21 Bernard van der Linde, 22 Sibongile Novuka, 23 Wandisile Simelane.

Date: Saturday, June 17
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 15.00 (13.00 GMT)
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant Referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron, Dylen November
TMO: Egon Seconds

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