Preview: Cheetahs v Waratahs

Date published: June 5 2015

Both the Cheetahs and Waratahs will be highly motivated – albeit for different reasons – when they face each other in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

The Cheetahs have a new coach in Franco Smith who takes over the reins from Naka Drotske, who has left him with a side who are in 13th place on the table and who have already lost 10 of their 14 previous matches.

A new broom usually sweeps clean and several of the Cheetahs players will be determined to impress Smith ahead of the 2016 season with solid performances in this encounter and next weekend's clash with the Bulls in Pretoria.

Smith knows his first assignment as a Super Rugby coach is a daunting one but he has a clear vision if what he wants from his players.

“This is a big challenge for me and a massive privilege – I have big shoes to fill," he said.

"I realise we can’t change everything in a week, but we have to set new goals and the players have to believe in them.

“Our plan for the next four and a half years started on Monday, but first we have to get the pleasure and enthusiasm back in the game for the players.

“We want to play with intensity and deliver quality rugby for the full 80 minutes, and will use the players on the bench as well as I believe this is a game played by 23 men and not only 15.

“The next two weeks against the Waratahs and the Bulls will not be easy though as both still have a lot to play for. Our aim will be to hold on to the ball for longer periods of time, lift our intensity and secure use our first phase possession and use it well."

The Waratahs are involved in a tussle with the Brumbies to secure top spot in the Australian Conference and by the time this match kicks off they will know what is needed to move above the men from Canberra.

But despite the Cheetahs' lowly position in the standings, the Waratahs know they are in for a tough assignment. The home side boast a 63.2% win record against visitors from Australia.

The Waratahs have only won once in Bloemfontein – in 2009. Michael Cheika's side have done well on attack this season.

They have scored the fourth most tries (37) in the tournament, made the third most clean breaks (150), are fourth highest for metres gained (6887) and are second highest for defenders beaten (313) and offloads (195).

The last time these teams met: The Cheetahs extended their winning streak over the Waratahs to three matches with a hard-fought 27-26 victory in Sydney in 2013. Raymond Rhule scored two tries and Robert Ebersohn also got over the whitewash. The men from Bloemfontein's other points came via the boot of Johan Goosen who kicked three conversions and two penalties. For the Waratahs, Brendan McKibbin led the way with four penalties and two conversions. Their tries were scored by Peter Betham and Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Players to watch: The Cheetahs welcome back Springbok wing Cornal Hendricks after an extended period on the sidelines. Hendricks is one of the best finishers in the competition and if his inside backs can create space for him with ball in hand, he will keep the Waratahs' defenders busy.

Despite being yellow carded against the Lions last weekend, Waratahs flanker Jacques Potgieter has proven to be a real asset to the defending champions these past two seasons. His physicality on attack and defence is a key component of the Waratahs' game-plan. Potgieter's abrasive style of play can prove the undoing of the home side.

Team news: The Cheetahs have made eight changes to their run-on side. Up front BG Uys will start as Danie Mienie moves to the bench while in the back row flankers Tienie Burger and Boom Prinsloo swap places on the sides of the scrum. Niell Jordaan will make his Super Rugby debut at number eight. Niel Marais starts at fly-half meaning Joe Pietersen drops to the bench while Sarel Pretorius is back in the starting line-up at scrum-half. Rayno Benjamin moves up from the bench replacing Michael van der Spuy at inside centre, Cornal Hendricks comes in on the left wing, replacing Raymond Rhule, who has a knee injury, while Coenie van Wyk will start as full-back replacing Clayton Blommetjies. Amongst the replacements, Elandre Hugget will provide back-up at hooker, Willie Britz replaces Carel Greeff while Shaun Venter provides scrum-half cover.

Waratahs boss Michael Cheika has made two changes to his starting line-up. In the back-line, Matt Carraro comes in for the suspended Rob Horne on the wing while up front, Jacques Potgieter returns to the starting line-up on the blindside flank in place of Stephen Hoiles.

Form: The Cheetahs are on a three-match losing streak – to the Highlanders, Lions and Stormers – in which they conceded 40 points in each match. The Waratahs lost to the Lions in Johannesburg last weekend after back-to-back victories over the Sharks and Crusaders in Sydney.

Prediction: Although the Cheetahs are at home, they have really been poor in recent weeks and are going through a transitional phase. Waratahs to win by 15 points!

Previous results:

2013: Cheetahs won 27-26 in Sydney
2012: Cheetahs won 35-34 in Bloemfontein
2011: Cheetahs won 23-3 in Sydney
2010: Waratahs won 40-17 in Sydney

The teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Cornal Hendricks, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Tienie Burger, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 BG Uys.
Replacements: 16 Elandre Hugget, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Willie Britz, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Shaun Venter, 23 Joe Pietersen.

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Matt Carraro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Dave Dennis, 4 Mitchell Chapman, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Hugh Roach, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements (two to be omitted): 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Patrick McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Peter Betham, 24 Jack Dempsey, 25 Jono Lance.

Date: Saturday, June 6
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 15:00 local (13:00 GMT, 23:00 AEST, 01:00 NZST)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)