The Cheetahs will hope to topple a Boland side bursting with confidence this weekend in Wellington.
Boland will be determined to make a good impression in what will be their first appearance in the Currie Cup Premier Division since 2009. They face a seasoned Free State Cheetahs team that looks very similar to their 2016 Super Rugby side.
Boland finished the Currie Cup qualifiers third on the overall table and will hope to build on that momentum going into the Premier Division. The Cavaliers only lost three games all season and played an exciting brand of attacking rugby.
Free State finished sixth and will welcome their Super Rugby reinforcements who bring a wealth of experience and skill.
Cheetahs head coach Franco Smith said although their Super Rugby campaign was disappointing, they will use the Currie Cup to build on what they learnt.
"We want to be as competitive as possible in this competition. Everybody wants to win this competition. As our captain says, we are still a work in progress, we are going to have a winning mind-set, the brand we play must become a winning brand," Smith told the SABC.
"So, our main emphasis is not to see these games different than a Super Rugby game. We going to play not against opposition but against ourselves – position ourselves to our standards and try be better."
Last time these teams met: The Cavaliers were able to pip Free State 24-17 in Bloemfontein. A brace by Christopher Bosch and a try from former Blitzbok Danwel Demas secured the win for the Wellington men. The Cheetahs were ahead at half-time after CJ Coetzee scored the sole try of the first half, with one penalty from Boland. At the beginning of the second half the Cheetahs scored again through Lorenzo Gordon. After that it was all Boland who scored three successive tries to clinch the game.
Team News: The Free State Cheetahs will go into this game with a largely unchanged side from Super Rugby. They boast a dangerous back-line with Clayton Blommetjies, Sergeal Petersen and Raymond Rhule complimented by the return of captain Francois Venter. A strong halfback pairing of Fred Zeilinga and Shaun Venter will take charge of the game and they will look to the loose trio of Neill Jordaan, Uzair Cassiem and Paul Schoeman to get them front-foot ball. They start a relatively young yet potent front-row in Tom Botha, Joseph Dweba and Tshego Nche.
Prediction: The Cavaliers have a lot momentum going into the game but the Super Rugby experience of the Cheetahs should see them through. Cheetahs by 10.
Boland: 15 Nico Scheepers 14 Sergio Torrens 13 Ryan Nell (c) 12 Christopher Bosch 11 Danwel Demas 10 Adriaan Carelse 9 Marnus Hugo 8 Zandré Jordaan 7 Jacques Engelbrecht 6 Kenan Cronje 5 Hanna Kisthoff 4 Shaun McDondald 3 Basil Short 2 Clemen Lewis 1 SP Wessels
Replacements: 16 Chadley Wenn 17 Francois Hanekom 18 Joubert Horn 19 Chaney Willemse 20 Jovelian De Koker 21 William Van Wyk 22 Craig Pheiffer
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Neill Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Tshego Nché
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Justin Basson, 19 Henco Venter, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Ryno Benjamin
Date: Saturday, August 6
Venue: Boland Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 15:00 (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Rodney Boneparte
Assistant referees: Francois Pretorius, Sinethemba Mrulwa
TMO: Shaun Veldsman