Planet Rugby

Preview: Cheetahs v Blues

04th July 2013 16:38

Share:

phillip van der walt blues cheetahs

Power: Philip van der Walt

Desperate to secure their Wildcard spot in the lead up to the play-offs, the Cheetahs face the Blues in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

The hosts have been outstanding this season and are in the middle of a red-letter campaign, with nine wins from 15 matches leaving them second in the South African Conference.

Tapping into what many felt was a ton of unfulfilled potential, Naka Drotske's side have flourished this season, with rising star Willie Le Roux leading the way.

Bizarrely despite their all-action style, the Cheetahs have beaten the fewest defenders in the league with 203, some way off the Highlanders' 366.

Their defence on the other hand has been excellent, making 87.8 per cent of tackles to put them amongst the top three sides in Super Rugby in that department. The Cheetahs discipline has also been exemplary, with the fewest yellow cards conceded all season - one.

Defensively too, the Cheetahs deserve nothing but praise. Robert Ebersohn, Phillip Van Der Walt and Pieter Labuschagne are all inside the top ten for the most tackles made this season, with Labuschagne alone producing an astonishing 228 to put him clear at the top.

Plenty rests on Le Roux with his six tries and 15 clean breaks so far in 2013, but the Springbok is a perfect representation of what the Cheetahs are all about - endeavour and talent.

As for the Blues, last season's misery is now long gone under the reign of Sir John Kirwan in Auckland.

A six-eight record, whilst disappointing, is still a marked improvement from 2012, although the seven-point gap between the Blues and second-placed Crusaders in the New Zealand Conference now appears to be unsurmountable.

Still, it beats finishing an enormous 18 points off the Highlanders as was the case in the middle of last season's nightmare under Pat Lam.

Finding themselves in the top five for key stats including tries scored, clean breaks, metres made and defenders beaten, the Blues' attack has had a rocket lit beneath it.

Much of that comes down to Frank Halai, the former New Zealand Sevens star who leads try-scoring in Super Rugby this season so far with 10.

Charles Piutau on the opposite wing hasn't been quiet either, his 1309 metres made thus far being more than any other player in the league.

Perhaps the greatest threat however has been Rene Ranger. Finally grabbing his chance at Test level after inadvertently signing a three-year contract with Montpellier, Ranger has been in scintillating form.

Piutau, Ranger and Halai lead the league for clean breaks made in 2013, but it is Ranger's additional 37 defenders beaten, 20 offloads and six tries that have made him a complete nightmare to contain in midfield.

The Blues success however is not all down to their attack. Their ability to concede tries at will last season meant it was no surprise they were rooted to the bottom of the New Zealand Conference, yet now they find themselves with the second-best tackle success rate in the league at 88.5 per cent. Becoming competitive again at the breakdown has also helped their cause.

Needing to beat the Cheetahs and the Chiefs in their final match if they are to grab a play-off berth, the Blues will be without key half-backs Piri Weepu and Chris Noakes, with Jamison Gibson-Park and Baden Kerr filling in.

The Cheetahs on the other hand have been forced to wait on influential scrum-half Piet Van Zyl, whilst Adriaan Strauss captains a strong side featuring the exciting duo of Ebersohn and Johann Sadie in midfield.

Prediction: A genuine must-win for both sides, the Blues absentees at half-back and the Cheetahs' home advantage should swing this one. Cheetahs by 5.

The teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Ligtoring Landman, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Elgar Watts, 22 Rayno Benjamin.

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Jackson Willison,12 Francis Saili, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (C ), 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Sam Prattley
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Wayne Ngaluaf, 21 Marty McKenzie, 22 George Moala

Date: Saturday, July 6
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 14.50 (12.50 GMT)
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse (South Africa), Francois de Bruin (South Africa)
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa (South Africa)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs Zebre19:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster19:35
Connacht vs Leinster19:35
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs Toulon18:00
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse18:00
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:00
Castres vs Oyonnax18:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:00
Montpellier vs Stade Francais18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Thursday , September 18
Northland vs TaranakiNorthland vs Taranaki Preview
Friday , September 19
Counties Manukau vs CanterburyCounties Manukau vs Canterbury Preview
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 17
Southland 14 - 38 TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
ITM Cup
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 MunsterBenetton Treviso vs Munster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens29
2Bath29
3Leicester Tigers29
4Exeter26
5Northampton26