The Cheetahs host the Western Force in what promises to be an entertaining clash in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The Cheetahs host the tournament's surprise package, the Western Force, in what promises to be an entertaining clash in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The two teams have experienced contrasting fortunes in 2014, with the Cheetahs currently lying last on the table while the Force – who, in previous campaigns were used to being amongst the basement dwellers – are currently in fifth spot.
The home side have delivered a mix bag of performances this season. They pride themselves on their attacking style of play but have battled on defence throughout the season.
Their recent form has been inconsistent and after delivering an impressive performance in a 35-22 demolition over the Stormers two weeks ago, they threw away an 18-9 half-time lead against the Bulls last weekend before suffering a 26-21 loss.
Coach Naka DrotskÃ© has recalled fly-half Johan Goosen and prop Coenie Oosthuizen and expects big contributions from the Springbok duo.
“It is good to have both Johan and Coenie back,” said DrotskÃ©.
“They are two quality players that are very influential in the way we want to play.
“Coenie played 30 minutes against the Bulls and I think he showed he is ready for more this week. We will see how it goes with his fitness, but we are excited to have him back.
“Goose has had a rough patch were he had a couple of niggles, so hopefully everything is now 100 percent fine and he can play longer.”
The history between the Cheetahs and the Force is very even over the years. After winning the first four matches between these teams, the Force have lost the next three. And the points' difference since 2006 is a mere nine points for an average score of 19-17 to the visitors from Perth.
The Force – who are playing their first match of a two-match South African tour – will be chasing their first win in Bloemfontein since 2008 when they edged out the Cheetahs, 16-15. The home side has claimed their past two fixtures in the Free State, winning 29-14 in 2010 and 17-13 in 2012.
The Force will also be looking for their first win on South African soil since March 2011, when they beat the Lions at Ellis Park.
Cheetahs skipper Adriaan Strauss is determined to extend that record, however.
“We will be looking to get that win, but we realise we have a lot to work and improve on,” he said.
“We need to see an improvement in our play this weekend. Our focus will be on our own game and hopefully the result will come because of that.
“But we know we have to play very well tactically against the Force. They have a good kicking game and we need to be right up there on defence and work very hard.”
The Western Force's South Africa's duo Wilhelm Steenkamp and Sias Ebersohn will be highly-motivated as they take on their former team-mates.
Steenkamp played one season for the Cheetahs in 2011, while Ebersohn spent five years at the South African franchise before crossing to the Force at the end of 2012.
The fifth-placed Force have six victories from their last seven games but coach Michael Foley knows his side must be at their best if they want to be victorious.
“The Cheetahs present a different challenge to other South Africa sides; while they use their set piece and kicking game as a weapon, they also play with width,” explained Foley.
“If we maintain our work rate and discipline in defence as a 15, we will earn important opportunities to attack from turnover ball.”
Prediction: This should be an entertaining and high-scoring spectacle but the Force will break their three-year drought in South Africa. Western Force to win by five points!
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Raymond Rhule/Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Heinrich BrÃ¼ssow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Carel Greeff, 20 Waltie Vermeulen, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Cornal Hendricks/Howard Mnisi.
Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Adam Coleman, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Justin Turner, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Chris Tuatara-Morrison.
Date: Saturday, May 10
Kick-off: 17:05 local (16:05 BST, 15:05 GMT)
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bleomfontein
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Francois de Bruin (South Africa), Marius Jonker (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)