PREVIEW: Southern Kings v Cheetahs
ROUND EIGHT CATCH-UP MATCH: The Pro14 is back this weekend with the first of the South African derbies in what could prove to be crucial matches in the race for the Final Series.
The Cheetahs have an exemplary record against the Southern Kings, but they will need to maintain that to keep the pressure up in Conference A.
The Cheetahs flew out of the blocks this season, but their away form has not quite matched their efforts in Bloemfontein, leaving them with work to do to make the top three in Conference A and reach the Pro14 Final Series.
A heavy defeat to Zebre last time out has them three points behind Glasgow Warriors, albeit with two games in hand. The first of them is away to the Southern Kings, who they have beaten in every previous meeting in the Pro14. The South African derbies are often high-scoring affairs, with 86 and 76 points in the last two meetings between the teams.
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) January 23, 2020
Southern Kings’ elusive fullback, Masixole Banda, will earn his 50th cap for the franchise in Saturday’s match.
The 31-year-old hot-stepper has amassed his caps in both the Pro14 championship and Super Rugby, making him one of the stalwarts of the Port Elizabeth-based side.
The diminutive player, who has shown his versatility at both fullback and flyhalf, will run on in the No.15 jersey this weekend in front of his hometown crowd.
“I’m really excited to have reached this milestone,” a jubilant Banda said on Friday.
“It has not been easy reaching 50 games which is not a feat that many players are able to reach. I’m proud of the road that I have travelled in my career to reach this stage.
“It is extra special for me because it can be something that can motivate other kids who come from our townships like I do. I’m grateful for the opportunities I have received to reach this point.
“I hope that I can contribute towards the team’s cause and aim of leaving the field with a win on Saturday. The Southern Kings is a team that is close to my heart and I always give it my all for my teammates, the coaches and the fans. It will be no different when I play my 50th match.”
For the Cheetahs, Joseph Dweba and Wilmar Arnoldi switch places with Dweba in the starting line-up at No.2. Gerhard Olivier is No.8 with Aidon Davids providing cover on the bench.
Tian Schoeman returns to flyhalf. The wings are Anthony Volmink and Clayton Blommetjies with Chris Smit amongst the replacements.
“It doesn’t matter if you performed badly in the previous game. Each week is going to be a challenge and you can’t take any game for granted. We’ve trained hard these last two weeks and we tried to rectify our mistakes. Mentally we’ve made a step-up and we’ll try our best to put out a better performance on Saturday.” said captain Tian Meyer.
The two sides have had six previous Pro14 encounters, with the Cheetahs victorious on each occasion.
🗣 Afrigter Hawies Fourie oor die wedstryd teen die @SouthernKingsSA hierdie Saterdag in Port Elizabeth.
— Toyota Cheetahs (@CheetahsRugby) January 23, 2020
Coach Hawies Fourie was less than impressed with his side’s performance in their 13-41 shock loss to Zebre early in January but knows they need to win both derbies over the next fortnight to keep their chances of making the play-offs alive.
And while they underestimated Zebre and fell short, Fourie won’t be making the same mistake again, especially as historically the games between the two at the Kings’ home ground in Nelson Mandela Bay have been close.
“I told the players that in the previous three games in Port Elizabeth were close. The scores were 29-20, 21-20 and 24-17. That is what we will encounter, it won’t be a 60-20 scoreline,” he said.
“If we don’t pitch up and play well, then we will be in the same boat as against Zebre. We have worked hard and mentally we know where we are. We know the mistakes we made against Zebre and we will definitely put up a better performance.
“My feeling is the game against the Cheetahs is the one the Kings are looking forward to for the entire season. If they beat us they will feel they are the best Pro14 side in South Africa. They’ve improved quite a lot since the start of the competition. We don’t underestimate them, but if they do underestimate us then it is okay, I will take that.”
Southern Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 John-Thomas Jackson, 11 Erich Cronje, 10 Bader Pretorius, 9 Stefan Ungerer (captain), 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Ruaan Lerm, 5 Aston Fortuin, 4 Jerry Sexton, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Xandre Vos, 18 Ignatius Prinsloo, 19 Bobby de Wee, 20 Lusanda Badiyana, 21 Theo Maree, 22 Courtney Winnaar, 23 Andell Loubser.
Cheetahs: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (captain), 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Chris Massyn, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Boan Venter.
Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Erich de Jager, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Aidon Davis; 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 George Whitehead, 23 Chris Smit.
Date: Saturday, January 25
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 15.30 (13.30 GMT)
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Divan Uys (South Africa), Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
TMO: Johann Greeff (South Africa)