The Reds and the Cheetahs will be determined to return to their winning ways when they face off in Brisbane on Friday.
The Reds and the Cheetahs will be determined to return to their winning ways when they face off at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Friday.
After impressive victories in Round Two both these sides suffered humiliating defeats when they returned to action last weekend. The Reds came unstuck against their traditional rivals the Waratahs, who claimed a 32-5 victory in Sydney while the Cheetahs went down 35-14 to the Rebels in Melbourne.
There's plenty of pressure on the Reds, particularly their highly-rated halfback pairing of Will Genia and Quade Cooper who – after superb performances in their victorious season opener against the Brumbies in Canberra – delivered below par efforts in the loss to the Waratahs.
The highly-rated Wallaby duo will be motivated to deliver a better display in front of the Brisbane faithful, who will get their first opportunity of the new season to see their team in action after their two opening games were both played away from their home base.
Another player who will be keen to make a positive impact, but for a different reason, is Reds flyer Rod Davies, who plays in his first match since suffering a serious knee injury.
“I'm currently coming back from my knee reconstruction,” Davies told the Canberra Times.
“I did it pretty bad so it's been a bit of a different process to a normal knee reconstruction. But it feels fine, it feels strong. That's the main thing. I'm confident,” Davies said.
Cheetahs flyer Willie le Roux has been moved from full-back to wing for this encounter and Davies believes they will have to keep a close eye on the Springbok, who is famed for his unpredictability on atack.
“Definitely, he's the go-to guy in the Cheetahs team and he's showed last year what he can do,” he added.
“He'll run it from anywhere, he'll chip-kick, he'll grubber, he'll do anything.
“I love to watch him play but this week we have to be on to him because he's one player who can tear the game away from us.”
The Cheetahs were the surprise package in last year's competition but they've battled to replicate that form in their opening games. They suffered a shock loss at home to the Lions, in their season opener, before battling to victory over the Bulls but they were then comprehensively outplayed in their loss to the Rebels.
They were dealt a blow when first-choice tighthead prop Coenie Oosthuizen was ruled out of their tour with a neck injury. He's returned to South Africa and Drotske knows it will be difficult without him for this game and the rest of the tour.
“We can't speculate how long he is out for or how serious the injury is until he has seen the specialist,” he told Supersport.
“Hopefully he will be ready again in six weeks' time.”
But despite that setback and their poor start to the season, the Cheetahs will fancy their chances as they won the corresponding fixture 27-13 in Bloemfontein last year.
Prediction: Plenty of end-to-end action can be expected from two of the tournament's most entertaining sides. The Reds are in their backyards and will secure victory by 10 points!
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Dom Shipperley. 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Anthony Fainga'a, 23 Ben Tapuai.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Ligtoring Landman, 20 Jean Cook, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Cornal Hendricks.
Date: Friday, March 7
Kick-off: 18:40 local (08:40 GMT)
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Matt O'Brien (Australia)
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)