Cheetahs reveal new captain for Leinster
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Cheetahs conclude their Europe tour with a massive Pro14 fixture against reigning champions Leinster on Friday in Dublin.
Leinster have been in sublime form this season with 14 victories in 16 pool matches, and 11 bonus points for tries, and they will look to continue this form against the Cheetahs, who need to return to their winning ways to remain within a striking range of their rivals for a Pro14 playoff spot.
The Cheetahs will have to be sharp on attack and defence from the outset, as Leinster are the only team to have scored more than 500 points this season, while they conceded 207 points – only seven more than Munster, who boast the best defensive record in the competition.
With five pool games remaining – including this match – for the Cheetahs to force their way into the top three in Conference A for a playoff spot, and the team already trailing their pool contenders, the Cardiff Blues and Munster, by six points, they will enter the clash under pressure to register a victory to avoid slipping too far behind as the pool stages draw to a close.
With the Cheetahs’ Rabz Maxwane and Shaun Venter being among the top try scorers in the competition, and Tian Schoeman fifth on the list of top points scorers, Leinster will be wary of the threat the visitors pose.
The teams have crossed paths only once before in the competition in 2017, with the Cheetahs winning that encounter 38-19 in Bloemfontein.
Coach Franco Smith has named Reinach Venter as the starting hooker, with Marnus van der Merwe providing cover on the bench.
In the back row, Gerhard Oliver, Abongile Nonkontwana and Junior Pokomela switch places to complete the loose trio.
In the backline, Tian Meyer will be leading the team onto the field, with Shaun Venter providing cover on the bench.
Charles Marais returns to play after suffering from food poisoning.
Leinster: 15 Dave Kearney, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Conor O’Brien, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Max Deegan, 6 Rhys Ruddock (captain), 5 Scott Fardy , 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Bryan Byrne, 1 Peter Dooley
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Josh Murphy, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Barry Daly.
Cheetahs: 15 Louis Fouche, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (captain),8 Junior Pokomela, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais R, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Marnus van der Merwe, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Rudy Paige, 23 Shaun Venter.
Date: Friday, March 1
Venue: RDS Arena, Dublin
Kick-off: 19.35 (19.35 GMT, 21.35 SA time)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Colin Stanley (Ireland)