Preview: Cheetahs v Reds

Date published: April 17 2015

Two of the tournament's strugglers go head-to-head when the Cheetahs host the Reds in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

The Cheetahs, despite occupying 12th spot on the overall table are on a high after they finished their trip to Australasia with a hard-fought win over the Western Force last weekend.

The Reds, who are second from bottom in the standings, have battled all season and judging from their away record against the Cheetahs they will be struggling again this weekend.

The Cheetahs win twice as many matches at home against teams from Australia compared to New Zealand opposition.

Against the Ausstralians, they have 12 wins from 18 (66.7 percent) in Bloemfontein, while that figure drops to seven from 22 (31.8 percent) against New Zealand teams.

It’s been more than five years since their last victory in Bloemfontein – a 31-10 triumph in 2010. That was the only time in four starts that the Cheetahs had lost at home against the Queenslanders.

Despite his side's triumphant finish to their overseas tour, Cheetahs boss Naka Drotske is not underestimating the Reds.

“Saturday is not going to be an easy game," he said.

"The Reds have a lot of game breakers and two of their best players are coming back or this encounter.

"We’ve put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we need to win. If we play the way we know we can play and keep to our structures, then I believe we can win. It is in our hands.”

Despite his side's poor form, Reds boss Richard Graham was encouraged by their effort in last weekend's loss to the Bulls and said they were up for the challenge of taking on the Cheetahs at their home ground.

“This weekend is another fantastic challenge in South Africa," he said.

"The group delivered some real positives last week but we understand we need to tighten up on a number of areas if we are to get a result against the Cheetahs.

“The team have focused a lot this week on our attacking framework and how we can continue to maximize our strengths from prop through to fullback.

"The four tries against the Bulls demonstrated we are heading in the right direction, however each week in Super Rugby there is a need to evolve."

The last time these teams met: The Reds claimed a 43-33 victory in Brisbane. As the scoreline suggests that was an entertaining affair with the Reds outscoring the Cheetahs by five tries to three. Quade Cooper led the way for the homeside with an 18-point haul via four penalties and three conversions and Chris Feauai-Sautia scored a brace of tries. Their other five-pointers came via a penalty try and Rod Davies and James Hanson also dotted down. For the Cheetahs, Shaun Venter, Elgar Watts and Boom Prinsloo crossed the whitewash and Johan Goosen contributed 13 points via three penalties and two conversions.

Players to watch: Since his return from Japan, against the Sharks in Round 5, Heinrich Brussow has been on fire for the Cheetahs. His brilliant foraging skills at the breakdown are well documented but he has been superb on attack and also led the Cheetahs' defensive effort.

After several below par showings – which many critics feel has been a contributing factor to the Reds' poor form – Will Genia delivered a brilliant allround effort against the Bulls in Pretoria last weekend. There were times when it looked like he was taking the three-time champions on his own and the Cheetahs know that his playmaking skills make him a big threat in this encounter.

Team news: The Cheetahs have made just one change to their run-on side with Springbok full-back Willie le Roux rested as part of the the agreement between the South African Super Rugby sides and SARU. Coenie van Wyk comes in as Le Roux's replacement. The Reds welcome back former skipper James Horwill from suspension and fellow Wallaby James O'Connor from injury, as the former replaces Dave McDuling who injured his knee against the Bulls. O’Connor is back on the starting wing, with Chris Feauai-Sautia shifted to the centres and Anthony Fainga’a moved to the bench. James Hanson returns to starting hooker after Saia Fainga’a suffered an upper body injury against the Bulls.

Form: The Cheetahs claimed a morale-boosting 24-15 victory over the Western Force in their final match of their overseas tour last weekend. This was their first triumph since Round 3 and follows losses to the Bulls, Sharks, Crusaders, Chiefs and Brumbies. The Reds only win came against the Force in Round 2. Despite being competitive, they lost 43-22 to the Bulls in Pretoria. That result came after successive defeats to the Highlanders, Waratahs, Brumbies, Lions and Rebels.

Prediction: Although both sides have struggled this season, the Cheetahs will have their tails up after last weekend's win over the Force and will secure a narrow win. Cheetahs to win by five points!

Previous results:

2014: Reds won 43-33 in Brisbane
2013: Cheetahs won 27-13 in Bloemfontein
2011: Reds won 41-8 in Brisbane
2009: Reds won 22-3 om Brisbane
2008: Cheetahs won 29-14 in Bloemfontein.

The teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Boom Prinsloo, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 BG Uys.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Tienie Burger, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Ryno Benjamin.

Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Lachie Turner, 13. Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 James O’Connor, 10 Nick Frisby, 9 Will Genia, 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Curtis Browning, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c).
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Marco Kotze, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 Anthony Fainga’a, 22 Campbell Magnay, 23 Chris Kuridrani.

Date: Saturday, April 18
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT, 03:10 AEST, 05:10 NZST)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Lourens van der Merwe
TMO: Shaun Veldsman