The Cheetahs should target a bonus-point win when they take on the Kings in Port Elizabeth this Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Cheetahs should still be smarting after an ill-disciplined end to their encounter against Treviso last weekend, which ultimately saw them slip to a disappointing 27-21 loss in Italy.
It allowed the Glasgow Warriors and Munster to open up an even bigger gap at the top of Conference A, but on a weekend when the other European teams will have a Pro14 break, there is an opportunity for the Cheetahs to make up some lost ground.
Although the Kings will be at home this Saturday, the fact remains that they have conceded 25 points or more in each of their games this Pro14 season, while slumping to 11 successive defeats.
It points to the defensive fragility of a team that has conceded a whopping total of 61 tries, with the Kings set to face another real test against a Cheetahs side that averages just less than four tries scored per game, while Makazole Mapimpi remains the competition’s leading try-scorer (nine).
The Cheetahs have suffered a couple of blows this week following injuries to captain Francois Venter and William Small-Smith, but they have been boosted by the return of Clayton Blommetjies and Henco Venter.
There has also been contrasting injury news for the Kings, who welcome back captain Michael Willemse this Saturday, but will have to do without experienced flyhalf Kurt Coleman.
While this will be expected to be a fast, loose and highly entertaining encounter on Saturday, the Cheetahs will know that patience and accuracy must be prioritised if they hope to collect a full haul of log points.
This is the sort of derby game the Kings are sure to get up for, but if the Cheetahs can see off a likely early onslaught from the hosts, they should have the superior all-round class and experience to dominate second-half proceedings.
The result will also be particularly important as these two teams are set to go head-to-head in a rematch at the Free State Stadium next weekend.
Ultimately, at a time when there isn’t much local rugby on the go, this clash in Port Elizabeth should be well worth a watch on Saturday.
Kings – 15 Yaw Penxe, 14 Michael Makase, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Martin du Toit, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Oliver Zono, 9 Rowan Gouws, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Tienie Burger, 6 Eital Bredenkamp, 5 Bobby de Wee, 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Stephan Coetzee, 1 Schalk Ferreira (c).
Subs: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Johan Smith, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Lindokuhle Welemu, 20 Freddy Ngoza, 21 Rudi van Rooyen, 22 Ntabeni Dukisa, 23 Harlon Klaasen.
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Craig Barry, 13 Nico Lee, 12 Niel Marais, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Tier Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (c), 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Aranos Coetzee, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Zee Mhkabela, 23 AJ Coertzen.
Photo: ©INPHO/James Crombie