Cornal Hendricks will be looking to find form against the basement dwelling Reds in Bloemfontein on Saturday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
Hendricks was one of the breakout players of the 2014 Vodacom Super Rugby season. Despite the Cheetahs' struggles, Hendricks found himself near the top of the scoring charts with six tries, but it was his ability to beat defenders with his quick feet that earned him a call-up to the Springboks for the June Tests.
Hendricks only enhanced his reputation with a sparkling performance on debut against Wales in Durban, before impressing during the Rugby Championship. However, after the highs of 2014, the current season hasn't really got going for the flying winger.
His impact has been negated by the Cheetahs' failings up front, while he has been starved of service out wide. The Cheetahs, and Hendricks, will get the opportunity to rectify that against the Reds.
The side from Queensland currently find themselves at the foot of the Super Rugby table, with one of the worst defensive records in the competition. They enter the match on the back of a 43-22 defeat to the Bulls at Loftus – a match in which they shipped six tries.
Their defence out wide was once again shown up, while they were unable to cope with the Bulls' aerial onslaught. The Cheetahs have shown a willingness to use the boot as an attacking weapon this season, with Joe Pietersen's pinpoint accuracy and Hendricks' aerial prowess combining to good effect.
With Willie le Roux set to sit this match out, Hendricks becomes even more important to the Cheetahs' cause. Coenie van Wyk will start at fullback in Le Roux's absence, in the only change to the side that defeated the Force in Perth.
Meanwhile, the Reds have made three changes for their second tour match. Coach Richard Graham has welcomed back Wallabies duo James Horwill and James O'Connor from suspension and injury respectively, while hooker James Hanson has also earned a recall.
The Reds have been dismal on the road in recent times, losing 10 of their last 11 matches away from Brisbane, while their last visit to Bloemfontein ended in a 27-13 defeat.
The Cheetahs produced a much-improved defensive display against the Force, with Heinrich Brüssow proving once again that he remains one of the best defensive assets around. His battle at the breakdown with Liam Gill – who leads the way in turnovers won with 16 – has the ability to shape the outcome of Saturday's match.
If the Cheetahs can secure quick ball, they have the attacking exponents out wide to cause damage and inflict yet another defeat on the struggling Reds.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Reds 5, Cheetahs 4
In Bloemfontein: Cheetahs 4, Reds 1
FACTS AND STATS
– The Cheetahs have not triumphed by more than seven points in any of their last six home games, a run which includes three defeats.
– The Reds have won five of the last seven instances of this match but have been defeated in four of five away from home.
– The Reds have lost six in a row, equalling their worst run of form since their worst ever sequence of nine straight defeats between February and April 2007.
– Away from home, the Reds have lost 10 of their last 11, securing a losing bonus point in just two of those defeats.
– The Reds have scored fewer points per match (11.6) than any other side so far.
– The Cheetahs have conceded more points per match (31) than any other side heading into round 10.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Cheetahs||Joe Pietersen (64)||Heinrich Brüssow, Francois Venter, Boom Prinsloo (3)||Cornal Hendricks (267)||Boom Prinsloo (77)|
|Reds||Lachlan Turner (20)||Marco Kotze, Lachlan Turner, Jake Schatz (2)||Lachlan Turner (406)||Adam Thomson (77)|
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 Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 BG Uys.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Danie Minnie, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Tienie Burger, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Rayno 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).
Subs: 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.
The Money Man's betting tips (to come)
Photo: Patrick Hamilton/Getty Images