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Preview: Highlanders v Cheetahs

07th April 2011 09:55

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Cheetahs: Not to be taken lightly

With just one game on Friday in Round Eight of Super Rugby, all eyes will be on the Highlanders and the Cheetahs at Carisbrook.

The Blues, Rebels and Chiefs all have a bye, but it will be business as usual this weekend as we fast-approach the half-way stage of the tournament.

Highlanders v Cheetahs

The Highlanders will be out to record back-to-back wins in Super Rugby on Friday when they host the Cheetahs in Dunedin.

Following the southerners' well-earned 26-20 victory over the Brumbies a week ago, Jamie Joseph's men - with four wins and two losses so far this season - will be in the unusual position of starting as favourites.

But they will be well aware not to underestimate a Cheetahs' team that have the potential to cause an upset in their final game of a four-match tour.

Highlanders hooker Jason Rutledge has labelled the Cheetahs as a "banana skin team" and said the hosts would need to tighten up on last week's performance against the Brumbies if they wanted the win.

The visitors may have only one win from seven games in 2011, but collected losing bonus points in three of their four matches in South Africa and have proved tough opposition on tour. They shocked the Waratahs in Sydney (23-3) for their first-ever victory in Australia, and ran the Blues close last weekend.

If they can defeat the Highlanders at the 'House of Pain', the South Africans have the chance of claiming their highest number of log points on a tour (10).

The Cheetahs will also be trying to emulate the Free State side of 1997 by beating the Highlanders. The victory over the Highlanders 14 years ago was the Cheetahs' first and last Super Rugby victory in New Zealand. The Free Staters, captained by former Springbok centre Helgard Muller, beat the team from Otago by 49-18 in Invercargill.

Since then however, it's been one-way traffic as the Highlanders have beaten the Cheetahs every time in their five matches since 2006, twice at home and three times in Bloemfontein.

Prediction: Perhaps the biggest factor in the Highlanders' favour is the Cheetahs' growing injury list, who have now lost 11 players since the start of the season. Highlanders to win by 10 points.

The teams:

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements: 16 Mo Schwalger, 17 David Te Moana, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Robbie Robinson, 22 James Paterson.

Cheetahs: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Philip Burger, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Corne Uys, 11 Wilmaure Louw, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Davon Raubenheimer, 6 Kabamba Floors, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp (c), 4 Francois Uys, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Skipper Badenhorst 17 Lourens Adriaanse, 18 Martin Muller, 19 Leon Karemaker, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Naas Olivier, 22 Riaan Smit.

Date: Friday, April 8
Venue: Carisbrook Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19:35 (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Nathan Pearce (Australia)
Assistant referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
TMO: Richard Kelly (New Zealand)

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2Bulls717
3Lions816
4Cheetahs89
5Stormers66