If any Super Rugby team could afford to await this round gleefully it is the Cheetahs, as the Rebels make their way to Bloemfontein.
If any Super rugby team could afford to await this round gleefully it is the Cheetahs. They sit in their home ground, biding their time for the arrival of the Rebels.
The Cheetahs have earned deserved praise for their three away wins in Australasia, including a gritty one-point affair against the Waratahs in Sydney two weeks ago.
After their inauspicious start to the season with back-to-back losses, the Cheetahs sit mid-log with a chance to further their revival with a big win against the vulnerable tourists.
The Rebels season, however, is going from bad to worse.
After some credible near misses, they imploded against the Sharks. They were further left reeling after the post game antics of Kurtley Beale, who was sent home to Australia following physical altercation with both his captain Gareth Delve and team-mate Cooper Vuna.
While this fixture is game of ninth versus 13th, the sides have a history of close encounters. The last time they met, they were staring down the barrel of a draw at 26-all until Piet van Zyl's 79th-minute heroics won a heart stopper in Melbourne.
Heading into the Bloemfontein game, the Rebels – who have never won away from Australia – are well and truly destabilised.
The team they named for Durban was considered close to their most talented XV. The reality though, proved it wasn't the best side they've fielded this season.
Unlike the visitors, Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske has not rung many changes. In fact, the side that will face the Rebels hasn't changed from last week's game against the Western Force. They particularly enjoyed the services of Heinrich Brussow, who returned from a long term injury to his shoulder and starred.
The Rebels will blood two new players in their starting fifteen: Flanker Jordy Reid, who has been very effective from the bench and prop Paul Alo-Emile, a stoutly built prop who missed most of last season with an ankle injury.
Lachlan Mitchell and Mitch Inman, the Rebels regular centre pairing were split last week with disastrous effect – Inman from 13 to 12 and Mitchell from 12 to 14. They have now been returned to their regular positions.
The breakdown was very poorly patrolled by the Rebels last week and they will be looking to atone. Rebels number eight Gareth Delve shifts into blindside flanker, with Scott Higginbotham packing down at the back of the scrum. Newcomer Jordy Reid will start at openside with Scott Fuglistaller and Jarrod Saffy coming off the bench to cover them.
Delve and Higginbotham will stand tall, but Reid – rated for his aggression and enthusiasm around the ruck – could be an unknown quantity.
The Cheetahs should exploit the Rebels vulnerability at the breakdown though. Phillip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, and Heinrich Brussow will oppose them, and look to finish the job started by the Sharks a week ago – owning the breakdown and counter-rucking their way to a dominant home victory.
Prediction: The Cheetahs are far too confident, competent and cohesive. The Rebels are struggling with form, with player issues and structure. Cheetahs to win by 20 points!
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johan Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuisen, 18 Rynhard Landman, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Rebels: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Richard Kingi, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Lachlan Mitchell, 11 Jason Woodward, 10 Angus Roberts, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Gareth Delve, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Cadeyrn Neville, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Nic Stirzaker, 22 Rory Sidey, 23 Tom English.
Date: Saturday, March 30
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT)
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)
By Paul Roberton