Cheetahs looking for 'fast finish'
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENTS: The Cheetahs are highly motivated to finish their season on a memorable note.
The Bloemfontein outfit has only three matches remaining – against Ospreys in Bloemfontein on Saturday, the Dragons a week later and the Southern Kings on April 27.
All three games are at home.
Captain Shaun Venter and his side have been preparing for fierce competition from Ospreys, who are fighting for survival in the Conference A play-off race.
“We are a lot better than at the beginning of the season and our goal is to win all three matches at home.” captain Shaun Venter.
“We want to make the supporters proud.”
The teams have met three times before, with the Free Staters winning the clash in Bloemfontein in 2017, while Ospreys’ won the last two outings on their home patch.
One of these victories, however, was by a single point, which will serve as extra inspiration for the home side.
The last time the Cheetahs registered a victory was in Bloemfontein on February 2 – which marked back-to-back home wins for them.
The Free Staters will enter the match with a superior attack, after scoring 64 tries to Ospreys’ 40 this season.
However, they will need to support this with a tenacious defensive effort.
Speedster Rabz Maxwane, with an impressive 13 tries to his name, is currently still the top try-scorer in the competition – with a five-try buffer over his closest rivals.
Tian Schoeman, meanwhile, who is currently in fifth place on the list of the top points’ scorers with 96 points, will have his sights set on hitting triple digits this weekend.
Coach Franco Smith has made a number of changes to his team.
Joseph Dweba will be the starting hooker, with Marnus van der Merwe providing cover on the bench.
Luan de Bruin and Aranos Coetzee switch places, with De Bruin starting at tighthead prop.
Gerhard Olivier will be starting at left flank.
Jasper Wiese and Rudy Paige are new to the bench.
The following players are not eligible for team selection due to injury: Teboho Mohoje (knee), Aidon Davis (broken leg), Junior Pokomela (back), Schalk van der Merwe (groin).
Players on suspension: Nico Lee, Ox Nche
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* Meanwhile James King will make his 150th Championship appearance for Ospreys, while Hanno Dirksen will make his 100th Championship appearance.
The following players were unavailable for selection due to injury: Alun Wyn Jones (knee), Giorgi Nemsadze (neck), George North (hand), Kieran Williams (ankle) and Scott Williams (back).
“With three games left it’s a simple equation for us,” Ospreys coach Allen Clarke, said.
“We know what the challenge is over the last three rounds of the regular season and our focus is on ourselves, and what we can control.
“The Cheetahs are a quality team and a formidable force at home. They are particularly dangerous in open field play with the ability to strike from deep.
“Having said that there’s a real buzz amongst the squad and a clear understanding of what we need to do to impose our game on the opposition.
“We’ll have to be at our best defensively and, in attack, be accurate and clinical.”
Cheetahs: 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Shaun Venter (captain), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Marnus van der Merwe, 17 Aranos Coetzee, 18 Reinach Venter, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Justin Basson, 22 Rudy Paige, 23 Louis Fouche.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Luke Price, 9 Aled Davies, 8 James King, 7 Justin Tipuric (captain), 6 Olly Cracknell, 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Dan Lydiate, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Matthew Aubrey, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Luke Morgan.
Date: Saturday, April 6
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 17.30 (16.30 UK time, 15.30 GMT)
Referee: John Lacey
Assistant referee: Sean Gallagher, Ben Crouse
TMO: Johan Greeff