Planet Rugby

Preview: Cheetahs v Crusaders

11th April 2014 09:33

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Johan Goosen crusaders v cheetahs

Timely return: Kieran Read

The Crusaders will be seeking their first victory in Bloemfontein since 2007 when they face the Cheetahs on Saturday.

Having suffered a slow start to their season, the seven-time champions became the first team to cross the Indian Ocean and claim a Super Rugby victory this year when they comfortably beat the Lions in Jo'burg a week ago.

The result as Ellis Park would have come as a massive morale boost and pressure reliever for Todd Blackadder and his team, who will look to add to the three tries they scored last week.

With Kieran Read back to skipper the men in red, the signs point towards a resurgence from the tournament's most successful side.

But the Free State Stadium has proved a tricky place to visit for the Crusaders in recent years, losing 33-20 there in 2011 and 20-13 in 2009.

Those results seem like a bit of an anomaly since history suggests that the other Kiwi sides enjoy playing the Cheetahs in South Africa. Naka Drotske's men have won six, drawn two and lost 12 at home against teams from New Zealand. (Against the Aussies in South Africa, they've won 11 and lost five).

Following a bad tour and last weekend's draw against the Chiefs, the Cheetahs have their backs to the wall if they are going to reach the playoffs, as they did last year.

"We're now in a situation where we basically need to win all our games going forward," said Drotské this week.

"The Crusaders are a quality team. Their history speaks for itself - they've won this competition seven times.

"We know we have to be physical against them on Saturday and we'll be playing with some confidence from doing well against them in recent years, but we know we have to execute for the full 80 minutes if we are going to win."

The Cheetahs have the luxury of naming an unchanged side, but Drotské will hope his team will perform like they did in the first half of the Chiefs game, not the second.

Blackadder meanwhile has only made a few rotations - notably the props and at scrum-half - as the Crusaders line-up finally starts to enjoy some continuity.

Previous results:

2012: Crusaders won 28-21 in Christchurch
2011: Cheetahs won 33-20 in Bloemfontein
2010: Crusaders won 45-6 in Christchurch
2009: Cheetahs won 20-13 in Bloemfontein

Prediction: Even if the history books suggest the home side could take this one, it looks like the Crusaders are on an upward curve while the Cheetahs have failed to fire this year. Crusaders by seven points.

The teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Hennie Daniller, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jean Cook, 7 Lappies Labuschagné, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacemets: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Teboho Mohoje, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Howard Mnisi.

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ryan Crotty (c), 11 Nemani Nadolo , 10 Colin Slade, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Tom Taylor.

Date: Saturday, April 12
Kick-off: 17.05 local (16:05 BST, 15.05 GMT)
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Francois de Bruin Francois (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

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