Preview: Pumas v Free State Cheetahs

Date published: October 2 2015

The Free State Cheetahs face a daunting challenge when they take on the Pumas in Nelspruit on Saturday.

With just two rounds of league matches left for the season, the Cheetahs know they can ill afford another defeat if they want to make the semi-finals.

The men from Bloemfontein are currently in fourth position in the standings on 18 points and know a bonus-point victory should be enough to secure their spot in the play-offs while the Pumas are in sixth place with 13 points.

They are not in their best form, however. Last weekend they suffered a humiliating 73-21 defeat to the Golden Lions in Johannesburg. The 73 points conceded in that encounter were the most ever in the Currie Cup.

Coach Franco Smith has rung the changes to his run-on side after the loss to the Lions and surprised with the inclusion of rookie number eight De Wet Kruger who is making his first start in the competition.

"There was a lot of guys who raised their hands (in the absence of some injured or rested players) and showed enthusiasm," explained Smith.

"De Wet is one of them that showed he can compete at this level."

Pumas head coach MJ Mentz highlighted the importance of this fixture, especially an early kick off in Nelspruit which is expecting hot weather.

“It is an important week for us where we take on the Cheetahs at 13:15 in Nelspruit which should be a really warm match,” he said.

“It is a crucial game for them as well, it will be like a knockout match, the team that win here stand a good chance of qualifying for the semis.

“We just need to remain positive and focus on the things that worked for us over the weekend.”

Mentz has rung the changes to his starting line-up following their heavy loss to WP last week. 

In the starting pack, Jaco Bouwer comes in on the openside flank in a rotational switch with Marnus Schoeman, now on the bench. 

Uzair Cassiem is now the blindside flank in place of Bouwer, who moves to the other side of the scrum. 

Stephan Watermeyer returns as captain and inside centre, replacing Wilmaure Louw. Jerome Pretorius moves from outside centre to right wing, while Maritz is now at outside centre and JW Bell at full-back. 

On the bench sees Francois du Toit at replacement hooker in place of Simon Westraadt while lock Rudi Mathee gets the nod over Jannie Stander.

Prediction: This will be a tense encounter which should go down to the wire. The Pumas will edge it by three points!

The teams: 

Pumas: 15 John-Wessel Bell, 14 Jerome Pretoius, 13 Hoffmann Maritz, 12 Stefan Watermeyer (captain), 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Jason-Colin Fraser, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Jaco Bouwer, 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Frank Herne, 1 Corné Fourie. 
Replacements: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Rudi Mathee, 19 Marnus Schoeman, 20 Reynier van Rooyen, 21 Hennie Skorbinski, 22 Bernardo Botha

Free State Cheetahs:  15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ryno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 De Wet Kruger, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Francois Uys (captain), 4 Reniel Hugo, 3 Luan De Bruin, 2 Neil Rautenbach, 1 Teunis Nieuwoudt .
Replacements: 16 Chase Morison, 17 Burrie Gildenhuys Uys, 18 Willem Serfontein, 19 Freddy Ngoza, 20 Ruan Van Rensburg, 21 Niel Marais, 22 Adriaan van der Berg Coertzen.

Date: Saturday, October 3
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Kick-off: 13.15 local (11.15 GMT)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant Referees: Jaco Pretorius, Pieter Maritz
TMO: Willie Vos