PREVIEW: Southern Kings v Cheetahs
ROUND 11 CATCH-UP MATCH: The first of three South African derby matches takes place this week as the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs catch up on their Pro14 schedule.
The South African sides took their break in December, meaning their Round 11 & 12 games against each other remain outstanding.
The teams will face off in Port Elizabeth at Madibaz Stadium with the return game in Bloemfontein slated for February 2 and both sides will be looking to seize a valuable opportunity to reel in other teams in the Pro14.
The Southern Kings (B7) are only six points adrift of Dragons in Conference B, but the bigger carrot will be dangled in front of the Cheetahs (A6) who need to stitch together back-to-back wins in these derbies to put themselves in the chase for a Final Series position.
With the European Champions and Challenge Cups playing this weekend, the South African derby is the only Pro14 action of the week.
Southern Kings head coach Deon Davids has selected an experienced matchday squad to take on the Cheetahs.
Davids’ named his squad of 23 which includes six changes to the starting XV that played in the Kings’ first match for 2019 a fortnight ago.
Loosehead prop Schalk Ferreira will make a return to the side, together with hooker Michael Willemse in the changes to the front row.
Flank Henry “Bakkies” Brown will also make a return to the team following a three-month injury lay-off after having recovered from an ankle injury.
In the backline, Springbok wing Bjorn Basson makes a return in the No.11 jersey, while Berton Klaasen will again form a midfield partnership with Tertius Kruger.
Ntabeni Dukisa will earn a starting berth at flyhalf, replacing Martin du Toit who will be on the bench.
Andisa Ntsila also returns to play after recovering from a knee injury to provide loose forward cover. So too has prop, Rossouw de Klerk, been included on the bench following his recovery from a chest injury.
Cheetahs coach Franco Smith has announced his team for the derby with no changes to the starting line-up. Scrumhalf Shaun Venter will be replacing Rudy Paige on the bench.
While there may be close ties between the Southern Kings and Cheetahs, with players in both teams having played for the other, all emotions will be put aside for the 80 minutes the teams will battle it out for the bragging rights.
As recently as the 2018 Currie Cup season did burly centre Tertius Kruger turn out in the white and orange strip of the Cheetahs and on Friday he will proudly don the red and black jersey of the Kings to face his former teammates.
Kruger made his Pro14 debut for the Southern Kings shortly after the end of the Currie Cup, becoming one of the key figures in the side and also establishing a reputation as one of the bullish ball-carriers who is not shy of bashing his way through defences.
“The Cheetahs is where my professional rugby career began in 2015 and before that I played for the junior teams from 2012 to 2014. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to build the foundation for my career that I got at the Cheetahs,” Kruger reflected.
“The opportunity to play Pro14 rugby for the Southern Kings is one I could not let pass. It has been an amazing past few months with the team where I think I quickly adapted and am thoroughly enjoying it.”
The fleet-footed midfielder is well-versed in the Cheetahs’ style of play and will be one of the former Free State side’s players (together with Sarel Pretorius and Tienie Burger) who will have inside knowledge of the abilities of the opposition this week.
“We will see what happens, but it will definitely be a tough game. When you come up against old mates it is always difficult because we know each other so well,” said Kruger.
“This is a very important game because the side that wins will get a boost on the log. There is no doubt that both teams will come out will all guns blazing.”
Meanwhile, Cheetahs fullback Malcolm Jaer will also face some familiar faces.
“The Southern Kings will always have a special place in my heart because that is where things started for me and they gave me a chance to live out my potential, but that is in the past,” said Jaer.
“I’m now with the Cheetahs and just want to play to my full potential this weekend and make a difference.”
Southern Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Berton Klaasen, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Ntabeni Dukisa 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Henry Brown, 6 Cyril-John Velleman, 5 John-Charles Astle (captain), 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Nicolaas Oosthuizen, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Lumpumlo Mguca, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Andries van Schalkwyk, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Martin du Toit, 23 Harlon Klaasen.
Cheetahs: 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (captain), 8 Daniel Maartens, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Marnus van der Merwe/Reinach Venter, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Walt Steenkamp, 21 Abongile Nonkontwana, 22 Shaun Venter, 23 Louis Fouché.
Date: Friday, January 18
Venue: Madibaz Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 19.35 (17.35 GMT)
Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa), Paul Mente (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
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