Preview: Cheetahs v Lions

Date published: May 22 2015

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The Cheetahs will be out for revenge when they take on the Lions in a South African derby Bloemfontein on Saturday.

These side met as recently as Round 11 when the Johannesburg-based side secured a narrow win their backyard.

Although the Cheetahs are amongst the basement dwellers in the standings, there's plenty at stake for the Lions whose chances of making the play-offs will be strengthened if they manage to win in Bloemfontein this weekend.

That gives the Lions the edge and judging from their previous performances in Bloemfontein, they will be heading to their favourite away venue in South Africa.

The men from Johannesburg have won three from six matches in Bloemfontein, which is more than in any other local derby.

Their seven wins from 12 encounters against the Cheetahs is the Lions’ best in derbies – they sit at two from 13 against the Bulls and Sharks (against whom they’ve also drawn once), and one from 12 against the Stormers.

The Cheetahs have held a half-time lead in four of their last five matches against the Lions, but won just one of these matches. And having previously lost 17 out of 18 away games, the Lions have won three of their last five encounters on the road.

Cheetahs captain Francois Uys expects a tough encounter against their visitors.

“We know we will have to meet fire with fire against the Lions on Saturday," he said.

"If you allow them to do what they want and not disrupt them at all, it will be easy for them, as they are a good unit and play well together.

“So we will have to play well to beat them, like we did in Johannesburg earlier in the season when one or two errors in the end probably cost us the game. If we stick together as a team, we know we’re in with a chance.”

Lions head coach Johan Ackermann said his team would not underestimate their hosts despite their lowly position on the table.

“I’ve been saying since day one of this competition that any side can beat any other side and the Cheetahs proved it a few weeks ago against the Stormers.”

The last time these teams met: The Lions secured a 34-29 victory in that entertaining clash in Johannesburg a month ago. Both sides scored four tries with Warwick Tecklenburg, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe and Faf De Klerk crossing the whitewash for the Lions and Cornal Hendricks, Francois Venter, Johann Sadie and Carel Greef dotting down for the men from Bloemfontein. Lions pivot Elton Jantjies's goal-kicking sealed the win for his team, however, and he contributed 11 points via four conversions and a penalty.

Players to watch: For the Cheetahs, Boom Prinsloo has impressed with some fine performances in recent weeks. Prinsloo's versatility is his main strength and he links well with his backs which makes him dangerous with ball in hand. He's also a solid on defence and thrives on the physical nature of the game.

Lions number eight and captain Warren Whiteley has been one of the Johannesburg-based outfit's standout performers since the start of the competition. Whiteley leads from the front and has impressed on attack and defence. Whiteley is one of the smaller loose forwards in the tournament but what he lacks in size, he makes up with his excellent leadership skills and never-say-die attitude.

Team news: Cheetahs boss Naka Drotske has made four changes to his run-on side. Regular captain Francois Uys returns to the starting line-up at lock with Steven Sykes dropping down to the bench. The only other change to the pack sees Carel Greeff starting at openside flank in place of Tienie Burger, who misses out due to concussion. Henco Venter comes onto the bench as loose forward cover. Amongst the backs, Cornal Hendricks and Raymond Rhule return to the starting line-up on the wings in place of Sergeal Petersen and Rayno Benjamin respectively.

Lions boss Johan Ackermann has made several changes to his starting XV. In the forwards, Ackermann has chosen to start Jacques van Rooyen and Ruan Dreyer in the front row. Andries Ferreira will partner Martin Muller as the lock pairing, while Warwick Tecklenburg returns to the run-on side at blindside flank. In the backline, Courtnall Skosan returns to start on the left wing which results in Ruan Combrinck shifting back to right wing. Howard Mnisi comes into the starting side and links up with Lionel Mapoe in the midfield, as Mapoe shifts back to outside centre from the wing.

Form: Since the last clash between these sides, the Cheetahs surprised the Stormers with a 25-17 victory in Bloemfontein but they then suffered a humiliating 45-24 home defeat to the Highlanders last weekend The Lions lost narrowly to the Bulls two weeks ago. They returned to the victory trail with against he Highlanders but then went down to the Brumbies in Johannesburg last weekend.

Prediction: This should be a high-scoring affair as both sides like to run the ball. It will be a close affair but the Lions will win by three points!

Previous results:

2015: Lions won 34-29 in Johannesburg
2014: Lions won 60-25 in Johannesburg
2014: Lions won 21-20 in Bloemfontein
2012: Cheetahs won 26-5 in Welkom
2012: Lions won 27-25 in Johannesburg
2011: Cheetahs won 53-19 in Johannesburg
2011: Lions won 25-20 in Bloemfontein

The teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Boom Prinsloo, 6 Carel Greeff, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Minnie.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 BG Uys, 18 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Coenie van Wyk, 23 Rayno Benjamin.

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Robert Kruger, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Harold Vorster.

Date: Saturday, May 23
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT, 01:05 AEST, 03:05 NZST)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

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