Cheetahs' vital Italian mission
PRO14 SPOTLIGHT: The two South African franchises will hit the ground running with matches that are of vital importance to both campaigns this weekend.
The Cheetahs will be looking to consolidate their two-point lead over Glasgow Warriors and make up some ground on Ulster – as they head into a clash in Parma with Zebre this weekend.
The Southern Kings head to in-form Edinburgh to test the progress they made during their three-week break in December.
Both sides will be hoping to add a victory to their season before a string of home games that will determine their fates in the second half of a tough season.
The Cheetahs were fortunate to see Edinburgh’s win over Glasgow last weekend in the 1872 derby that kept them above the Scottish side in their conference, and now, with games in hand, they want to exploit that advantage before a string of home games where their expansive game will come to the fore.
First though, they need to negotiate the Italian side and will be looking to come away with only their second win overseas this season.
Coach Hawies Fourie believes the travel schedule may have been a setback, but their rolling maul and forwards are the key to winning the game.
“Our travel to Parma wasn’t easy,” Fourie said.
“We had to travel in two different groups with myself, the doctor and 14 players getting here a day earlier than the other players.
“It makes our preparation a bit difficult. It isn’t ideal but that is how it is,” he added.
“It will be vital, coming off a three-week break that we execute well at the start of the game and that we don’t make mistakes. We need to shake off the rustiness very quickly.
“We know that after two derby games against Treviso, they will be ready and look sharp for our arrival. The field is at least not as muddy as it was a few weeks ago when they played. It is soft underfoot but at least not as muddy and it doesn’t look like it will rain.
“We need our forwards to dominate. We’ve seen that Zebre has let through a number of maul tries in the competition and conceded one again last week, so that is something we have concentrated hard on in our preparation for this game. The mauls will be important, and they also maul well, so the team that wins that battle will give themselves a good chance to win the battle.
“We will also be relying on good defence and good discipline. We can’t fall into that trap again and give away unnecessary penalties.
“We did ourselves no favours with the cards we got on our first tour, but we believe that is in the past now and we are looking forward.”
Fourie added that Edinburgh’s win had given them an opportunity they now needed to capitalise on.
“Edinburgh’s win over Glasgow worked out well for us, and we are competing with them for third spot, and with Ulster for second spot in our conference. We are two points ahead of Glasgow, and we need to keep that lead over them.”
In Edinburgh former Kings captain Michael Willemse is looking forward to clashing with his former teammates, who have been working tirelessly in the hot December sun to continue their upward trend in the competition.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he told the Scotsman.
“Those boys will be gunning for me but I’m looking forward to the challenge and it should be quite a nice one.”
Willemse also believes it will be a better Kings’ side than many will expect.
“They’ve really been working hard. I’ve been speaking to a couple of the boys and they have definitely put some decent systems in place,” said Willemse.
“The bigger picture is turning into a positive thing with their first away win against the Ospreys [in November]. I think they will be pretty happy about that and take that into this game.
“Looking at last year, the way that Kings beat Edinburgh back in Port Elizabeth [25-21], we will have to be on our A-game. We can’t take any games lightly and we will go into this one with a strong mind.”
The teams have been named for Round 10 of the Guinness PRO14 where a full slate of games will take place following the return of the South African teams from their December break.
Friday, January 3
Cardiff Blues v Scarlets – KO 19.35
Cardiff Blues: Hallam Amos; Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Ben Thomas, Josh Adams; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Rhys Gill, Liam Belcher, Scott Andrews, Filo Paulo, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi (Capt), Will Boyde, Nick Williams.
Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny; Ryan Conbeer, Steff Hughes, Hadleigh Parkes, Steff Evans; Angus O’Brien, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens (Capt), Werner Kruger; Jake Ball, Tevita Ratuva; Aaron Shingler, Josh Macleod, Uzair Cassiem.
Ulster Rugby v Munster Rugby – KO 19.35
Ulster Rugby: Will Addison, Robert Baloucoune, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney; Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt), Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney.
Munster Rugby: Shane Daly; Andrew Conway, Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, Keynan Knox; Fineen Wycherley, Darren O’Shea; Peter O’Mahony (Capt), Jack O’Donoghue, Arno Botha.
Saturday, January 4
Benetton Rugby v Glasgow Warriors – KO 13:00 UK / 14:00 Italy
AR1: Andrea Piardi (FIR), AR2: Wayne Davies (WRU)
Benetton Rugby: Jayden Hayward; Leonardo Sarto, Ratuva Tavuyara, Luca Morisi, Monty Ioane; Tommaso Allan, Dewaldt Duvenage (Capt); Nicola Quaglio, Hame Faiva, Marco Riccioni, Irne Herbst, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri, Giovanni Pettinelli, Abraham Steyn.
Glasgow Warriors: Ruaridh Jackson; Kyle Steyn, Nick Grigg, Sam Johnson, Niko Matawalu; Pete Horne, George Horne; Aki Seiuli, George Turner, Adam Nicol; Rob Harley, Tim Swinson, Bruce Flockhart, Tom Gordon, Ryan Wilson (Capt).
Dragons v Ospreys – KO 15.00
Dragons: Will Talbot-Davies, Jared Rosser, Tyler Morgan, Tom Griffiths, Ashton Hewitt, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (c); Brok Harris, Elliot Dee, Leon Brown, Joe Davies, Cory Hill, Aaron Wainwright, Taine Basham, Ross Moriarty
Ospreys: Cai Evans; George North, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, Scott Williams, Luke Morgan; Luke Price, Aled Davies; Nicky Smith, Sam Parry, Ma’afu Fia; Adam Beard, Bradley Davies; Olly Cracknell, Justin Tipuric (Capt), Morgan Morris.
Zebre v Toyota Cheetahs – KO 15:00 UK / 16:00 Italy
Zebre: Junior Laloifi; Charlie Walker, Giulio Bisegni (Capt), Enrico Lucchin, Mattia Bellini; Carlo Canna, Joshua Renton; Andrea Lovotti, Luca Bigi, Giosue Zilocchi, David Sisi, Ian Nagle; Jimmy Tuivaiti, Johan Meyer, Giovanni Licata.
Toyota Cheetahs: Rhyno Smith; Craig Barry, William Small-Smith, Benhard Janse van Rensburgh, Rabz Maxwane; George Whitehead, Tian Meyer (Capt); Boan Venter; Wilmar Arnoldi; Aranos Coetzee; Sintu Manjezi; Walt Steenkamp; Chris Massyn; Junior Pokomela; Aidon Davis
Leinster Rugby v Connacht Rugby – KO 17.30
Leinster Rugby: Jordan Larmour; Fergus McFadden, Garry Ringrose, Joe Tomane, Dave Kearney; Ciarán Frawley, Luke McGrath; Peter Dooley, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Ross Molony, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock (Capt), Will Connors, Max Deegan.
Connacht Rugby: Stephen Fitzgerald, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Tom Daly, John Porch, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade (Capt): Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Niall Murray, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, Paul Boyle, Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Tom McCartney, Paddy McAllister, Conor Kenny, Joe Maksymiw, Sean Masterson, Stephen Kerins, David Horwitz, Tiernan O’Halloran
Edinburgh Rugby v Isuzu Southern Kings – KO 19.45
Referee: Joy Neville (IRFU, 7th Championship appearance)
AR1: Ben Blain (SRU) AR2: Johnny Erskine (IRFU)
TMO: Leo Colgan (IRFU)
Edinburgh Rugby: Blair Kinghorn; Eroni Sau, James Johnstone, Matt Scott, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos (Capt); Jamie Bhatti, Mike Willemse, WP Nel; Lewis Carmichael, Grant Gilchrist; Magnus Bradbury, John Barclay, Nick Haining.
Replacements: Dave Cherry, Pierre Schoeman, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Luke Crosbie, Charlie Shiel, Simon Hickey, Mark Bennett.
Isuzu Southern Kings: Courtney Winnaar, Yaw Penxe, Sibusiso Sithole, Howard Mnisi (Capt), Erich Cronje; John-Thomas Jackson, Stefan Ungerer; Schalk Ferreira, Jacques du Toit, Pieter Scholtz, Jerry Sexton, Aston Fortuin, Ruaan Lerm, Thembelani Bholi, Elrigh Louw.
Replacements: Alandre van Rooyen, Xandre Vos, De-Jay Terblanche, John-Charles Astle, Bobby de Wee, Theo Maree, Bader Pretorius, Andell Loubser