European Challenge Cup, Round Three - Teams and Predictions
FRIDAY PREVIEW: The Cheetahs will be out to bounce back as they head to Llanelli to face Scarlets in the Round three clash on Friday.
It will be a major challenge for the South Africans, who have been out of action since Round two, while the Scarlets have won twice in three United Rugby Championship games, picking up back-to-back victories in their most recent clashes.
Scarlets are aiming to cement their place at the summit of Challenge Cup Pool B.
The Welsh region have been in impressive form so far in this season’s competition, running in 11 tries to claim maximum points from their opening two games.
A 39-7 thrashing of Aviron Bayonnais in Llanelli kicked off their campaign before they held off Cheetahs to win 45-26 in Parma.
That defeat was a setback for the South African outfit, who won 21-16 at Section Paloise in their first-ever EPCR Challenge Cup game, leaving them fifth in the standings.
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Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie admitted his team has learned a lot from their last outing against the Scarlets.
“If the conditions allow us, we will try to take them on and keep ball in hand, take the ball through phases and try to put pressure on their defence,” Hawies said.
“On the other hand Scarlets are really well organised on attack, they can hold onto the ball through numerous phases. Think the first try they scored against us [during Round two] they kept the ball for 22 phases, so they have the ability to keep the ball for long periods.
“We will have to be sharp on defence and work hard to get into positions and have numbers on defence.
“It will be a big challenge. Obviously, at home, they are more dangerous and since the last time, we played them.
“They are a quality team and I won’t be surprised if they end up in the top 8 of the United Rugby Championship table at the end of the season.”
The Cheetahs were also dealt a double blow and will take to the field without Springbok veterans Frans Steyn and Ruan Pienaar.
The pair have been incredible for the franchise and their experience have been very vital.
However, Cheetah coach Fourie is confident that the team is more than capable to fill the void.
The duo’s absence means that Rewan Kruger and Andell Loubser get to start. Tapiwa Mafura and Branden de Kock will provide cover on the bench.
“They [Steyn and Pienaar] bring a lot of quality to the side, and we will certainly miss them, there is no two ways about it,” Hawies said.
“But it’s an opportunity for Rewan Kruger and the other players to step up. Think last year during the Currie Cup semifinal Kruger had a really good game when he came on with his quick passing game. Luckily he had a little bit of game time since last year’s Currie Cup, so he knows what to do.
“Branden de Kock has not played a lot for us, he was injured but he is back and ready to play.
” It will be a big test for both of them, especially when its wet weather conditions.
“At fullback, we have selected Andell Loubser. He has got a good kicking game and We think Scarlets will again target us with their kicking game so we have selected a guy with a big boot to play at fullback.”
Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel has labelled the fixtured as a massive game for them.
“We have now won four of the last five games going back into Europe.
“The Cheetahs is another massive game for us with us topping the pool.”
Peel has made two personnel changes and one positional to the team that secured a 28-22 win over Cardiff at the Arms Park last weekend.
Kemsley Mathias returns to the No. 1 jersey, packing down alongside Ken Owens and Javan Sebastian in the front row. Morgan Jones comes in at lock for his first start of the campaign, while Vaea Fifita – player of the match against Cardiff – switches to blindside flanker. Dan Davis and Carwyn Tuipulotu make up the remainder of the back row.
On the bench, Wales and British & Irish Lions prop Wyn Jones returns from a knee injury, having last played against Zebre in October. Jac Price is another to come off the casualty list, as does Sam Costelow, who has recovered from the head knock he suffered against the Ospreys on Boxing Day.
In the other fixture on Friday, the Dragons are gunning for a first win in EPCR Challenge Cup Pool B when they head to Section Paloise.
The Welsh region are on four points in sixth thanks largely to their thrilling 31-31 draw at Lions in Round one but will need to bounce back from a 21-27 home defeat to Section Paloise last time out.
The French side’s success at Rodney Parade saw them rise to fourth in Pool B, with their Round one clash with Cheetahs in France having ended in a 16-21 defeat.
Since the two sides’ EPCR Challenge Cup Round 2 meeting, Dragons have fallen to three straight defeats in the United Rugby Championship, while Section Paloise have notched one draw – 22-22 with Aviron Bayonnais – in three TOP 14 games.
“We will pick the best team that we can,” Dragons head coach Dai Flanagan said.
“I’ve some youngsters that I need to bring through, but we also want to win every game we play.”
*All the Friday’s teams and predictions:
Friday, January 13
Scarlets v Cheetahs
(Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli – Kick-off: 20.00; 22.00 SA Time; 20.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Scarlets by five points
Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Joe Roberts, 12 Jonathan Davies (captain), 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Dane Blacker, 8 Carwyn Tuipulotu, 7 Dan Davis, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Morgan Jones, 3 Javan Sebastian, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Kemsley Mathias,
Replacements: 16 Shaun Evans, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Sam Wainwright, 19 Jac Price, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Sam Costelow, 23 Ioan Nicholas.
Cheetahs: 15 Andell Loubser, 14 Dan Kapepula, 13 David Brits, 12 Reinhardt Fortuin, 11 Munier Hartzenberg, 10 Siya Masuku, 9 Rewan Kruger, 8 Friedle Olivier, 7 Siba Qoma, 6 Jeandre Rudolph, 5 Victor Sekekete (captain), 4 Rynier Bernardo, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Louis van der Westhuizen, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Mzwanele Zito, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Branden de Kock, 22 Robert Ebersohn, 23 Tapiwa Mafura,
Referee: Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Sara Cox (England) & Clara Munarini (Italy)
TMO: Claire Hodnett (England)
Section Paloise v Dragons
(Stade du Hameau, Pau – Kick-off: 21.00; 20.00 GMT; 22.00 SA Time)
@rugby365com: Dragons by five points
Section Paloise: 15 Théo Attissogbe, 14 Vincent Pinto, 13 Yvan Reilhac, 12 Nathan Decron, 11 Daniel Ikpefan, 10 Thibault Debaes, 9 Clovis Lebail (captain), 8 Brent Liufau,7 Thibaut Hamonou, 6 Sacha Zegueur, 5 Fabrice Metz, 4 Hugo Auradou, 3 Nicolas Corato, 2 Romain Ruffenach, 1 Siegfried Fisiihoi
Replacements: 16 Youri Delhommel, 17 Ignacio Calles, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Jimi Maximin, 20 Martin Puech, 21 Alexis Levron, 22 Axel Desperes, 23 Mathias Colombet.
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Rio Dyer, 13 Steff Hughes (captain), 12 Max Clark , 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Will Reed, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Ollie Griffiths, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Sean Lonsdale, 5 George Nott, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Chris Coleman, 2 Bradley Roberts, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Brodie Coghlan, 17 Joshua Reynolds, 18 Luke Yendle, 19 Ben Carter, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Che Hope, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Jack Dixon.
Referees: Eoghan Cross (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Jonny Erskine (Ireland) & Keane Davison (Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)