Preview: Reds v Cheetahs

Date published: April 29 2016

Two of Super Rugby's strugglers meet on Saturday looking for some light relief when the Reds host the Cheetahs at Suncorp.

The Reds, now under the control of co-coaches Nick Stiles and Matt O'Connor, stunned the Highlanders before being outscored 44-81 during their two matches on tour against the Bulls and Stormers in South Africa.

No doubt about it, the timing of the Reds trip to the Republic was poor having finally broken their losing run with that resounding home win, but the 2011 champions have to hope the positivity from that shock triumph is still alive in Brisbane this Saturday.

Those supporters flocking back to Suncorp however should take heart from the Reds' record over this weekend's opponents. The Reds have won five of their last six matches against the Cheetahs, outscoring the South African side by 70 points across that span.

Naming an unchanged XV despite those losses is a clear sign of faith from the coaching staff for the Reds players to steady the ship (again), and with a top five lineout and a top two scrum in the competition, they really should be winning more games.

The Reds have a scrum success of 95 percent so far this season, the best of any team, while the Cheetahs’ is the least effective scrum in the competition (73 percent).

Therefore it doesn't take much homework to realise where the Cheetahs need to front up. Their pack couldn't live with the Rebels last weekend and Lood de Jager's forwards have plenty of work to do.

Both of the Cheetahs' wins this year have come over the Sunwolves – by margins of one point and 77 points – but their record in Australia is a real worry.

The Cheetahs have won just one of their last six matches in Australia, and they’ve never beaten the Reds there, losing four.

Breaking that run requires stability upfront and an on-song outing off the tee from Fred Zeilinga, handed the start this week ahead of Niel Marais, and if those happen then there is excitement in the shape of Francois Venter at inside centre and a potent back three, spearheaded by Sergeal Petersen.

Just how good is Petersen? He has the same number of clean breaks this season as Damien McKenzie (15). Put him in an open contest with the Reds and there could be fireworks.

The last time these teams met: Nick Frisby's late drop goal clinched a one-point win for the Reds over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, winning 18-17. Ryno Benjamin and Boom Prinsloo crossed for the hosts while Adam Korczuk and Samu Kerevi scored tries for the Reds, with Joe Pietersen and James O'Connor in charge of the kicking duties for their respective sides prior to Frisby's match-winning moment.

Players to watch: A year later than expected the Reds are starting to see the best of Karmichael Hunt. Full-back this year was meant to be Ayumu Goromaru's spot to lose, but Hunt's kicking game from deep combined with his abilities as a distributor at either first or second receiver are the reason that Samu Kerevi has been so effective with his carrying.

Looking at the visitors, flanker Uzair Cassiem is enjoying a first taste of Super Rugby after making a name for himself domestically in South Africa with the Pumas. Cassiem has impressed with his close-range carrying this year and will hope to punish the Reds around the ruck area.

Team news: The Reds have announced an unchanged side to play the Cheetahs at Suncorp Stadium this Saturday. That means James Slipper again captains the side, with Karmichael Hunt at full-back and Liam Gill at openside flanker.

Meanwhile, Cheetahs head coach Franco Smith has brought in Fred Zeilinga to start at fly-half. Zeilinga takes the place of Niel Marais, who drops to the bench. Smith has also made changes to his forward pack where Carl Wegner comes in for Francois Uys at lock and Henco Venter replaces the injured Hilton Lobberts. Paul Schoeman subsequently moves from number eight to the side of the scrum for this weekend's match at Suncorp Stadium.

Form: Bar that shock win over the Highlanders it's been a tough campaign for the Reds, although things have improved since the departure of Richard Graham after Round 2. There have been two losing bonus points in defeat along with a 25-25 draw with the Blues, meaning perhaps luck just needs to go their way. The Reds have scored just one try in the final 20 minutes of their games this season though, fewer than any other side.

The Cheetahs are yet to win against a team whose name doesn't start with Sun and ends in wolves, but they too have been competitive, with three losing bonus points so far.

Prediction: In what might be a high-scoring affair we're backing the Reds to finally grab that second win of the year. Reds by seven.

Previous results:

2015: Reds won 18-17 in Bloemfontein
2014: Reds won 43-33 in Brisbane
2013: Cheetahs won 27-13 in Bloemfontein
2011: Reds won 41-8 in Brisbane
2010: Reds won 31-10 in Bloemfontein
2009: Reds won 22-3 om Brisbane
2008: Cheetahs won 29-14 in Bloemfontein
2007: Reds won 23-13 in Brisbane

The teams:

Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Junior Laloifi, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Curtis Browning, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ben Matwijow, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 James Slipper (c)
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Sef Fa'agase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Michael Gunn, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Duncan Paia'aua, 23 Ayumu Goromaru

Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Nico Lee, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Oupa Mohoje, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Michael van der Spuy

Date: Saturday, April 30
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19:45 local (09:45 GMT)
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe
Assistant Referees: Will Houston, Nic Berry
TMO: George Ayoub