Changes aplenty for Cheetahs and Connacht
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENTS: The Cheetahs and Connacht have both made a number of changes to their teams for the Round Pro14 encounter in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Cheetahs coach Franco Smith named Erich de Jager at tighthead prop in the starting line-up, with Aranos Coetzee to the bench.
Sintu Manjezi and Jean-Pierre du Preez will be the starting locks, with Justin Basson providing cover on the bench.
The loose trio will be Junior Pokomela, Abongile Nonkontwana and Gerhard Olivier – with Daniel Maartens providing cover on the bench.
Louis Fouche and Tian Schoeman will be switching places, with Fouche starting at flyhalf.
After coming through the Cheetah Academy ranks, Darren Adonis will be making his Pro14 debut on the left wing.
Bernhard Janse van Rensburg and William Small-Smith will be switching places, with Small-Smith back in the starting line-up as outside centre.
The following players are not eligible for selection for the Cheetahs due to injury: Quintin Vorster (ankle), Dries Swanepoel (shoulder), Teboho Mohoje (knee), Luan de Bruin (ankle), Jasper Wiese (shoulder), Lloyd Greeff (hamstring), Jacques Du Toit (knee), Boan Venter (hip), Jamba Ulengo (neck), Rabz Maxwane (quad).
Tian Meyer is on a player management program and Walt Steenkamp will be getting married on Friday.
Connacht coach Andy Friend has made five changes to his starting team.
Into the side comes hooker Tom McCartney, lock Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle and Robin Copeland in the back row and wing Niyi Adeolokun.
The inclusion of the experienced McCartney sees him join a front row alongside props Denis Buckley and Conor Carey. In the second row, Thornbury is set to start his first game since returning from a shoulder injury that he picked up in the win over Scarlets earlier in the season.
In the back row, Copeland at No.8 and Boyle at blindside will line up alongside skipper Jarrad Butler.
Adeolokun is the only change in the backline with his inclusion on the wing. He will be part of a back three that includes Matt Healy on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at fullback.
Jack Carty, man-of-the-match last week, continues his halfback partnership with Caolin Blade – as do the midfield duo of Kyle Godwin and Tom Farrell.
The Cheetahs and Connacht have met twice before and both matches were closely-fought – with the Cheetahs winning their home match 26-25 last season, while Connacht registered a narrow 23-15 victory in Galway.
The Cheetahs have been more effective on attack this season with 28 tries scored to Connacht’s 25.
“For us, it is going to be important to build on our performance and to keep the momentum going,” coach Franco Smith said.
“We would like to end the year off with another win. We know what is expected of us.”
Connacht is aiming to back up their bonus point win over the Southern Kings last week with a second win on their South African tour.
While coach Andy Friend was satisfied with the bonus point win last weekend, he says they were still left with plenty of areas for improvement this week.
“The win against the Kings last week was hugely important for the morale among the group and it sets us up for the challenge of taking on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein,”Friend said.
“The players have worked really hard in training over the two weeks.
“They have been hugely challenged in the intensity and physicality that we have worked on and they have responded really well. Coming over here we set ourselves the target of two wins and that firmly remains our goal.”
Friend is not underestimating the challenge that his side face, against the Cheetahs whose home form has been extremely competitive since joining the Pro14 last season.
“We will need a step up in intensity and execution from where we were last weekend to challenge the Cheetahs.
“They are a competitive side who are well able to throw the ball around and open teams up and the boys are well aware of that. But we will continue to focus on our game and constantly improving ourselves and delivering a result,” Friend added.
Cheetahs: 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Rhyno Smith, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Nico Lee , 11 Darren Adonis, 10 Louis Fouche, 9 Shaun Venter (captain), 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Erich de Jager, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Marnus van der Merwe, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Aranos Coetzee, 19 Justin Basson, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Rudi Paige, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Benhard Janse van Rensburg.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Tom Farrell, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Paul Boyle, 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Conor Carey, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 James Cannon, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 James Mitchell, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Cian Kelleher.
Date: Saturday, December 1
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 UK time; 15.00 GMT)
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Craig Evans (Wales), Ben Crouse (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)