Preview: Cheetahs v Sharks

Date published: March 13 2015

Despite losing to the Bulls last weekend, the Cheetahs will be full of confidence when they face the Sharks in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Naka Drotske's side beat the Sharks in the corresponding fixture in Durban in Round One and have held the upperhand in most of the recent matches between these two sides, winning three out of their four last fixtures.

However, the Sharks have done well when playing in Bloemfontein against the Cheetahs winning four from six matches.

The Cheetahs will look to build on that previous clash, especially in the scrums where their pack dominated their more experienced opponents.

“Our set pieces were really good against the Sharks the last time we played them and it needs to be the same on Saturday," said Cheetahs skipper Francois Uys.

"The Sharks has a world class front row and a very good line out as well.

We weren’t at our best in set pieces this past weekend and we’ve really worked hard at it this week.”

While the Cheetahs only lost their first game last weekend – A 39-20 defeat to the Biulls in Bloemfontein – the Sharks are under some pressure as they have only won once from their four previous matches.

Sharks coach Gary Gold knows his side face a daunting challenge and expects a tough battle.

"The Cheetahs were formidable opponents in our first round encounter and are a real threat with ball in hand," he said.

"We will have our work cut out for us this Saturday in a pressurised situation."

Last time out: These sides met exactly a month ago in Round One and it was the Bloemfontein-based outfit who triumphed against all odds. The Cheetahs secured a 35-29 bonus-point victory despite losing Springbok lock Lood de Jager after 10 minutes with a broken arm. Jean Cook, Sarel Pretorius, Boom Prinsloo and De Jager's replacement Carl Wegner all scored tries for the Cheetahs. For the Sharks, Lwazi Mvovo and Pat Lambie – who was captain on the day after Bismarck du Plessis withdrew shortly before kick-off through injury – scored tries.

Players to watch: The Cheetahs are known for their attacking style of play so keep an eye on the back three of Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks and Raymond Rhule who all have the ability to change the course of a match with a moment of magic. Known for his physicality, Etzebeth will be keen to replicate the form which has made him one of the world's best locks.

Despite losing three out of their four matches this season, one player who has impressed for the Sharks is young lock Pieter-Steph du Toit. The 22-year-old's line-out play has been superb and he has alos done well as a ball-carrier.

Team news: England international Mouritz Botha returns at lock as one of four changes to the Sharks' pack. He replaces Lubabalo Mtyanda who is bracketed with Marco Wentzel as the back-up lock on the bench. Springbok props Beast Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis also return to the run-on side in place of Thomas du Toit and Matt Stevens respectively. The final change for the visitors sees Renaldo Bothma coming in in the blindside flank for Willem Alberts who is injured while Tera Mtembu is back in he squad as back row cover.

The Cheetahs initially selected Tienie Burger to make his starting debut at flank, for Oupa Mohoje, but Burger picked up an injury during the week so Mohoje will start his fourth game of the season. Sarel Pretorius, a late withdrawal ahead of last weekend's clash with the Bulls returns at scrumhalf so Tian Meyer moves back to the bench. The hosts also have a new centre pairing in Francois Venter, who moves to outside to inside centre, and Johann Sadie who will wear the number 13 jersey. This means Michael van der Spuy misses out this week. And on the bench, Springbok flanker Heinrich Brüssow has recovered from concussion and is amongst the replacements alongside Clayton Blommetjies, who started on the wing against the Sharks in Durban last month.

Form: The Cheetahs suffered their first loss of the season last weekend – a 39-20 thumping to the Bulls in Bloemfontein. Prior to that they beat the Sharks 35-29 in their season opener in Durban and the Blues 25-24 in Bloemfontein in Round Three. Apart from their opening round loss to the Cheetahs, the Sharks have also gone down to the Bulls and Stormers and their only victory was registered in Durban in Round Two against the Lions.

Prediction: Like their first encounter this should be another entertaining affair. It will go down to the wire but the Cheetahs will win by two points!

Previous results:

2015: Cheetahs won 35-29 in Durban
2014: Cheetahs won 27-20 in Bloemfontein
2014: Sharks won 19-8 in Durban
2013: Cheetahs won 12-6 in Durban
2013: Sharks won 29-22 in Bloemfontein
2012: Sharks won 34-15 in Durban
2012: Sharks won 34-20 in Bloemfontein

The teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Jean Cook, 6 Oupa Mohoje, 5 Francois Uys (captain), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Mienie.
Replacements: 16 BG Uys, 17 Stephan Coetzee, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Heinrich Brussow, 20 Steven Sykes, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Clayton Blommetjies

Sharks:15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick/Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Marco Wentzel/Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Andre Esterhuizen, 23 Jack Wilson.


Date: Saturday, March 14
Kick-off: (17.05 GMT, 04.05 NZST, 02.05 AEST)
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)