PREVIEW: Cheetahs v Southern Kings
ROUND NINE CATCH-UP MATCH: If last weekend’s South African derby was anything to go by, Pro14 supporters are in for a cracking game of rugby on Saturday as the Cheetahs and Southern Kings renew hostilities.
With the European teams out of action for another few weeks, last Saturday’s derby had a big impact in Conference A, with the Cheetahs up to third and 26 points.
The match last week in Port Elizabeth was a belter that kept the crowds entertained throughout as the scoreline fluctuated. The Kings’ lethal counterattacking looked to have won out but for Rhyno Smith’s stunning late intervention – edging it 31-30 at the buzzer.
This week will bring the eighth Pro14 derby between the two, Cheetahs have won all seven, but boosted by their first away Championship win at Ospreys in Round Six – don’t bet against the Kings coming back even stronger.
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) January 31, 2020
Despite talk of fronting up physically and not being bullied around by the Kings after last weekend’s nail-biting encounter, the Cheetahs moved to calm the war talk ahead of the return game in Bloemfontein
Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie was surprised at the comments from his counterpart Robbi Kempson after last week’s result but said there would be nothing that will take them off their focus of winning the return game to keep their play-off chances alive.
“I don’t think the past weekend was that fierce, and there were three or four guys from our side getting stitches. Gerhard Olivier was on and off the field. It was a physical game and that is the nature of the game. We didn’t go in with a plan to try and disrupt them or pick a fight. It may be that some of the guys have personal battles and something happens on the field,” Fourie said in reply to Kempson’s comments.
“We won’t focus on that and try and intimidate them or whatever. We just want to try and play our game and execute a lot better this week.”
Fourie did admit that the win over the Kings, where the Cheetahs rallied back from 12-30 to win 31-30 was “a relief” but said they needed to back it up with a better display at home this weekend.
“It was a big relief, there was a lot of things going through my head in the last 10 minutes. I had three different speeches in my head for the changeroom and the press afterwards. I was just thankful we pulled it through and really played well in those last 10 minutes and put up a fight and pulled the game back.
“I’m proud of that but saying that we all know we need to improve and that will start again with a win at home.
“You always look at the log and you wonder if you add three points for the Connacht game, where would we be. But it doesn’t help at all thinking like that. This one balances it a bit and we need to move on. We want to be in the play-offs, we are third on the log and it is in our hands to stay there. We have played a game less than Glasgow at this stage and things are back on track.”
Another blockbuster clash between the two big men this Saturday…
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) January 29, 2020
Meanwhile, Southern Kings assistant coach Braam van Straaten saw enough in the performance of the Eastern Cape team to feel that they are now confirming their growth and improvement.
“The team is definitely growing, if we had played the Cheetahs a few months ago they would have given us a proper hiding but now the boat is turning and starting to point in the right direction,” said Van Straaten.
“We are not firing on all cylinders and we have some way to go still, but I think everyone can see that we are heading in the right direction now. We have things to work on, such as the slow ball that hampered our attack against the Cheetahs last weekend, but on a week by week basis we are working on those things and getting them right.
“Maybe people from outside don’t see it because they don’t see the players every day but from inside we can see the change in the way the players take information on and learn, the way they go about things on the field in comparison to how they did before and in how they go about preparing themselves both physically and mentally,” he added.
Cheetahs: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar (Captain), 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Chris Massyn, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Aidon Davis, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Louis Fouche, 23 Chris Smit.
Southern Kings:15 Andell Loubser, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 JT Jackson,
11 Erich Cronje, 10 Bader Pretorius, 9 Theo Maree, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Ruaan Lerm, 5 Jerry Sexton, 4 JC Astle, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Jacques du Toit (captain),1 Cameron Dawson.
Replacements: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Ig Prinsloo, 19 Bobby de Wee, 20 Lusanda Badiyana, 21 Josh Allderman, 22 Demetri Catrakilis, 23 Howard Mnisi.
Date: Saturday, February 1
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT)
Referee: Divan Uys (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa), Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
TMO: Johann Greeff (South Africa)