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Challenge Cup, Round Three - teams and predictions

SATURDAY AND SUNDAY PREVIEWS: The Cheetahs will look to continue to fly the South African flag in Europe’s Challenge Cup.

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Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie said his team would like to cement their place at the top of Pool One and secure an ‘easier’ passage through the play-offs.

After being knocked out in the Round of 16 in their debut season, the Bloemfontein-based franchise is looking to go a lot further and validate its status as an invitation team in the second tier of Europe’s showcase tournaments.

The Cheetahs will make history when they welcome Section Paloise to the adopted ‘home’ of the NRCA Stadium in Amsterdam for a Round Three match.

The Bloemfontein side was successful in the first two rounds when they beat Zebre 33-15 in Parma and the Sharks 32-29 in Bloemfontein.

After Saturday’s face-off against the French team, Section Paloise, they will play Oyonnax in France to round off their pool fixtures on January 20.

Fourie said the Cheetahs must put the results of the first two rounds behind them and start afresh.

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The coach described the French team as a “strong unit” and is expecting a tough challenge in Amsterdam.

“We said from the start that we want to improve on last year’s performance and if we can finish top of the log, we can get a bit of an easier draw in the Round of 16, which will help,” he added.

“So, that is some extra motivation for us to play well in the next two weeks and make sure that we continue where we left off.

“We’ve given ourselves a good chance with the wins against Zebre and the Sharks, and now we have to continue and finish the job.”

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Fourie spoke about the tactical appreciation required to achieve their main goal, a win on foreign soil and alien conditions.

“One of our strengths is our kicking game and our game management,” Fourie told @rugby365com, adding: “It will be important, because this is an open stadium.”

The halfback pairing of flyhalf George Lourens and veteran Springbok Ruan Pienaar (at scrumhalf) is the key to the Cheetahs’ prospects of getting that vital ‘W’.

The Cheetahs team also has a more ‘settled’ look, the squad having been together for some time with minimal changes.

“I’m confident these players can do the job for us,” Fourie added.

(Hawies Fouirie previews the Cheetahs’ Round Three Challenge Cup face-off against Section Paloise...)

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*Another South African team looking to seal their spot in the play-offs is the Sharks.

The Durban-based franchise – in second place, just two points behind the Cheetahs in Pool One – will host French outfit Oyonnax, who will be all but out if they lose.

The French team is languishing at the bottom after two losses.

However, Sharks coach John Plumtree – who will not be present at the match as he will be attending to some family business in New Zealand – cautioned against underestimating the visitors.

In a season where things have not been going well for the Springbok-laden Sharks – just two wins from 11 starts – this presents an opportunity to turn their fortunes around.

A win over Oyonnax on Saturday and another positive result against the Dragons in Wales next week will certainly have the desired effect.

“We’ll be in contention for a quarterfinal spot,” Plumtree said, before heading off to New Zealand – handing the reins to attack coach David Williams.

“There has been a lot of frustration in the last few weeks, losing several close encounters,” Plumtree told @rugby365com.

“We do need to find the confidence so we can go on a winning run.”

The Sharks coach described Oyonnax – who is 12th in the Top 14, with just five wins from 12 starts – as a “typical French team”.

“They are very physical, have a good off-load game and have a lot of continuity in their game.

“For us, it is important that we get our game going and do so for 80 minutes.”

(John Plumtree previews the Sharks versus Oyonnax Challenge Cup Round Three face-off…)

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* The South African team with the toughest challenge this weekend is the Lions, despite sitting pretty in second place in Pool Two.

It will be the battle of two unbeaten teams at Stade Yves-du-Manoir – Montpellier Hérault hosting the Lions.

Indeed, the game couldn’t be more evenly poised, as both teams currently have a points difference of +38.

The Top 14 team is a point ahead on account of their extra try bonus point.

However, in stark contrast, they are last in the French championship – with just three wins after 12 rounds.

But Montpellier Hérault centre Benson Stanley says they aren’t thinking too much about their opponents – concentrating instead on their own strengths.

“We focus on ourselves, on what we are capable of doing,” he said.

“We look at the opposition a little, but 80 percent of the time it’s what are we going to produce.”

That is likely to be tries, as the host team has scored 10 to the Lions’ six, with both George Bridge and Auguste Cadot having notched braces in their 38-5 win over Ospreys last time out.

The South African team’s last match was a solid 35-13 home win over Newcastle Falcons.

Lions forwards coach Barend Pieterse says he doesn’t understand why they are struggling like they do on the domestic scene.

“If you look at their players, they have a good squad,” he told @rugby365com.

Some of the more familiar names include Springboks Jan Serfontein (who will captain them against the Lions) and double World Cup winner Cobus Reinach.

Add in New Zealander George Bridge, South African Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg and South African-born French international Paul Willemse and you have a formidable combination.

Pieterse said the key for the Lions is to stick with what has been working for them.

“They have big forwards, so our main challenge will be upfront – because of the size [of their forwards] and experience.”

Lock Darrien Landsberg said there is a “lot of excitement” in the squad, despite the enormity of the challenge.

The expected conditions – cold and a chance of rain – will impact on the tactics employed by the Lions, with tactical kicking likely to feature more prominently.

All the Saturday, January 13, teams and predictions follow below

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Sharks v Oyonnax
(Kings Park, Durban – Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 French time; 13.00 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Sharks by 16 points

Teams

Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Francois Venter, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Tino Mavesere, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Corne Rahl, 3 Hanro Jacobs, 2 Fez Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Khwezi Mona, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 James Venter, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Diego Appollis, 23 Eduan Keyter.

Oyonnax: 15 Justin Bouraux, 14 Joe Ravouvou, 13 Leo Treilles, 12 Pedro Bettencourt (captain), 11 Maxime Salles, 10 Jules Soulan, 9 Charlie Cassang, 8 Loic Godener, 7 Hugo Hermet, 6 Filimo Taofifenua, 5 Ewan Johnson, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Thibault Berthaud, 2 Benjamin Geledan, 1 Adrien Bordenave.
Replacements: 16 Manu Leiataua, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Christopher Vaotoa, 19 Antonin Corso, 20 Ilan El Khattabi, 21 Souleymane Coulibaly, 22 Wandrille Picault, 23 David Odiase.

Referee: Adam Leal (England)
Assistant referees: Karl Dickson (England), John Meredith (England)
TMO: Hamish Smales (England)

Clermont Auvergne v Scarlets
(Stade Marcel-Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand – Kick-off: 14.00; 13.00 Welsh time; 13.00 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Clermont by 19 points

Teams

Clermont: 15 Alex Newsome, 14 Joris Jurand, 13 Julien Heriteau, 12 Léon Darricarrere, 11 Alivereti Raka, 10 Anthony Belleau, 9 Baptiste Jauneau, 8 Fritz Lee (captain), 7 Pita-Gus Sowakula, 6 Killian Tixeront, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Etienne Fourcade, 1 Giorgi Beria.
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Daniel Bibi Biziwu, 18 Cristian Ojovan, 19 Peceli Yato, 20 Lucas Dessaigne, 21 Sebastien Bezy, 22 Jules Plisson, 23 Pierre Fouyssac.

Scarlets: 15 Ioan Lloyd, 14 Tom Rogers, 13 Joe Roberts, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Archie Hughes, 8 Vaea Fifita, 7 Dan Davis, 6 Josh Macleod (captain), 5 Jac Price, 4 Alex Craig, 3 Sam Wainwright, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Kemsley Mathias.
Replacements: 16 Eddie Swart, 17 Steff Thomas, 18 Harri O’Connor, 19 Morgan Jones, 20 Ben Williams, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Ioan Nicholas, 23 Shaun Evans.

Referee: Eoghan Cross (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Jonny Erskine (Ireland), Alexandru Ionescu (Romania)
TMO: Mark Patton (Ireland)

Zebre v Dragons
(Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma – Kick-off: 16.15; 15.15 Welsh time; 15.15 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Zebre by five points

Teams

Zebre: 15 Lorenzo Pani, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Luca Morisi (captain), 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Simone Gesi, 10 Giovanni Montemauri, 9 Gonzalo Garcia, 8 Davide Ruggeri, 7 Jacopo Bianchi, 6 Guido Volpi, 5 Andrea Zambonin, 4 Leonardo Krumov, 3 Matteo Nocera, 2 Marco Manfredi, 1 Danilo Fischetti.
Replacements: 16 Giampietro Ribaldi, 17 Luca Rizzoli, 18 Juan-Manuel Pitinari, 19 Matteo Canali, 20 Giacomo Ferrari, 21 Thomas Dominguez, 22 Geronimo Prisciantelli, 23 Scott Gregory.

Dragons: 15 Cai Evans, 14 Rio Dyer, 13 Aneurin Owen, 12 Harri Ackermann, 11 Jared Rosser, 10 Will Reed, 9 Rhodri Williams (captain), 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Harri Keddie, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 George Nott, 4 Sean Lonsdale, 3 Luke Yendle, 2 James Benjamin, 1 Rhodri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Roberts, 17 Rodrigo Martinez, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Ollie Griffiths, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Steff Hughes, 23 Ewan Rosser.

Referee: Benoit Rousselet (France)
Assistant referees: Thomas Chereque (France), Hervé Lasausa (France)
TMO: Cedric Marchat (France)

Castres v Black Lion
(Stade Pierre-Fabre, Castres – Kick-off: 16.15; 19.15 Georgia time; 15.15 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Castres by 12 points

Teams

Castres: 15 Theo Chabouni, 14 Josaia Raisuqe, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Andrea Cocagi, 11 Antoine Bouzerand, 10 Louis le Brun, 9 Gauthier Doubrere, 8 Abraham Papalii, 7 Yann Peysson, 6 Baptiste Delaporte (captain), 5 Florent Vanverberghe, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Aurelien Azar, 2 Loris Zarantonello, 1 Wayan de Benedittis.
Replacements: 16 Pierre Colonna, 17 Antoine Tichit, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Gauthier Maravat, 20 Mathieu Babillot, 21 Santiago Arata, 22 Joris Dupont, 23 Osea Waqaninavatu.

Black Lion: 15 Miriani Modebadze, 14 Akaki Tabutsadze, 13 Giorgi Kveseladze, 12 Merab Sharikadze (captain), 11 Sandro Todua, 10 Luka Matkava, 9 Giorgi Margalitadze, 8 Ilia Spanderashvili, 7 Sandro Mamamtavrishvili, 6 Giorgi Kervalishvili, 5 Grigor Kerdikoshvili, 4 Nodar Cheishvili, 3 Giorgi Chkhartishvili, 2 Irakli Kvatadze, 1 Dato Abdushelishvili.
Replacements: 16 Tengiz Zamtaradze, 17 Aliko Shamilishvili, 18 Nika Khatiashvili, 19 Demuri Epremidze, 20 Saba Kurtanidze, 21 Alexander Jighauri, 22 Tornike Kakhoidze, 23 Luka Tsirekidze.

Referee: Anthony Woodthorpe (England)
Assistant referees: Joe James (England), George Selwood (England)
TMO: David Rose (England)

Edinburgh v Gloucester
(The Hive, Edgware – Kick-off: 17.30; 17.30 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Edinburgh by five points

Teams

Edinburgh: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Currie, 11 Wes Goosen, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Ali Price, 8 Bill Mata, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Glen Young, 5 Grant Gilchrist (captain), 4 Sam Skinner, 3 WP Nel, 2 Dave Cherry, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Robin Hislop, 18 Angus Williams, 19 Marshall Sykes, 20 Tom Dodd, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 James Lang, 23 Harry Paterson.

Gloucester: 15 Louis Rees-Zammit, 14 Jonny May, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Seb Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Caolan Englefield, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Lewis Ludlow (captain), 6 Jack Clement, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Freddie Clarke, 3 Kirill Gotovtsev, 2 Seb Blake, 1 Jamal Ford-Robinson.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Cameron Jordan, 20 Ruan Ackermann, 21 Steve Varney, 22 Max Llewellyn, 23 Lloyd Evans.

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Alex Frasson (Italy), Manuel Bottino (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Roscini (Italy)

Montpellier v Lions
(Stade Yves-du-Manoir – 21.00; 22.00 SA time; 20.00 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Montpellier by eight points

Teams

Montpellier: 15 Julien Tisseron, 14 George Bridge, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Jan Serfontein (captain), 11 Masi Dakuwaqa, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Mael Perrin, 7 Clement Doumenc, 6 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 5 Bastien Chalureau, 4 Tyler Duguid, 3 Lasha Macharashvili, 2 Vano Karkadze, 1 Gregory Fichten.
Replacements: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Enzo Forletta, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Cantin Foguet, 21 Louis Foursans-Bourdette, 22 Auguste Cadot, 23 Thomas Darmon.

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Rynhardt Jonker, 11 Boldwin Hansen, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Nico Steyn, 8 Hanru Sirgel, 7 Izan Esterhuizen, 6 JC Pretorius, 5 Darrien Landsberg, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Jaco Visagie (captain), 1 Morgan Naudé.
Replacements: 16 Morné Brandon, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Raynard Roets, 20 Ruhan Straeuli, 21 Travis Gordon, 22 Johan Mulder, 23 Gianni Lombard.

Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Finlay Brown (Scotland), Ethan Glass (Switzerland)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)

Sunday, January 14

Cheetahs v Section Paloise
(NRCA Stadium, Amsterdam – 14.00; 15.00 SA time; 13.00 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Cheetahs by 13 points

Teams

Cheetahs: 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Munier Hartzenberg, 13 Evardi Boshoff, 12 Reinhardt Fortuin, 11 Cohen Jasper, 10 George Lourens, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Jeandré Rudolph, 7 Friedle Olivier, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 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 Carl Wegner, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Sibabalo Qoma, 22 Rewan Kruger, 23 Ali Mgijima.

Section Paloise: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Thomas Carol, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Nathan Decron, 11 Aminiasi Tuimaba, 10 Axel Desperes, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Reece Hewat, 7 Mehdi Tlili, 6 Martin Puech (captain), 5 Fabrice Metz, 4 Guillaume Ducat, 3 Guram Papidze, 2 Romain Ruffenach, 1 Facundo Gigena.
Replacements: 16 Lucas Rey, 17 Remi Seneca, 18 Nicolas Corato, 19 Hugo Auradou, 20 Paulo Pelesasa, 21 Thomas Souverbie, 22 Thibault Debaes, 23 Samuel Ezeala.

Referee: Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Jonny Perriam (Scotland), Rob McDowell (Scotland)
TMO: Mike Adamson (Scotland)

@king365ed
@rugby365com

* Additional reporting by @ChallengeCup_

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