DYLAN JACK looks ahead this weekend’s Pro14 matches in Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth.
CHEETAHS vs CONNACHT (Saturday, 5pm)
A win at home against a much-improved Connacht side is a must for the Cheetahs, ahead of a four-week break in December, during which the teams around them in Conference A will pick up points.
The Cheetahs are currently second from bottom in the conference, just one point above Zebre, who themselves face a tough prospect in travelling to Swansea to play against the Ospreys, and six points below the Cardiff Blues.
While they did manage a single-point victory in Bloemfontein last season, the hosts are up against a differently motivated Connacht team. In fact, the Irish side is well in the race to finish second and needs two more wins to equal its results last season with the competition only reaching its halfway mark.
Good news for the Cheetahs is that crucial players, such as scrumhalf Sean Venter and centre Nico Lee seem to be hitting form at the right time, while new signings Rhyno Smith and Sinthu Manjezi have fitted seamlessly into the setup. The bonus-point win over Treviso would have done the Cheetahs’ confidence the world of good and coach Franco Smith would have been pleased that his side managed to finish the match as the stronger of the two sides, despite a shaky start.
However, they will know there are still plenty of areas to improve. The hosts will have to be far more clinical and patient on attack, as a few rushed passes let Treviso off the hook last weekend, and greater consistency will be needed at the set piece.
Cheetahs – 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Rhyno Smith, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Darren Adonis, 10 Louis Fouche, 9 Shaun Venter (c), 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Sinthu Manjezi, 3 Erich de Jager, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Marnus van der Merwe, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Aranos Coetzee, 19 Justin Basson, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Rudi Paige, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Benhard Janse van Rensburg .
Connacht – 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Tom Farrell, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Paul Boyle, 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Conor Carey, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley.
Subs: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 James Cannon, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 James Mitchell, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Cian Kelleher.
KINGS vs BENETTON TREVISO (Saturday, 7:15pm)
Following one of their best performances of the season against Leinster with an entirely average one against Connacht, seems to illustrate where the Kings are this season.
The men from Port Elizabeth are definitely more aligned and organised this season and can be deadly on the counter. But if starved of possession and opportunities to release their dangerous back three, as they were against Connacht, they don’t possess the pack that can match the top teams in the competition.
Facing a Treviso side who will be burning from losing to the Cheetahs in the closing stages in Bloemfontein, the hosts are going to have to raise their game yet again. The match is all the more important as a win could lift the Kings off the bottom of Conference B, if the Dragons lose to conference leaders Leinster.
Should the Kings put in a similar performance to what they did against Leinster, they will definitely be in to beat the Italians, however a replication of last week’s efforts could see them slump to another heavy defeat.
Kings – 15 Michael Botha, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Meli Rokoua, 12 Tertius Kruger, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Masixole Banda, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Martinus Burger, 6 Cyril-John Velleman, 5 JC Astle (c), 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Nicolaas Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Tango Balekile, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Luvuyo Pupuma, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 Andries van Schalkwyk, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Ulrich Beyers, 23 Harlon Klaasen.
Benetton Treviso – 15 Angelo Esposito, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Ian McKinley, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Marco Barbini (C), 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Subs: 16 Engjel Makelara, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Giuseppe Di Stefano, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Marco Lazzaroni, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Alberto Sgarbi
Conference A leaders the Glasgow Warriors face a tough encounter with the Scarlets, while Leinster should be expected to further entrench their pole position in Conference B by bagging all five points against the Dragons.
Munster, welcoming back a few internationals, take on Edinburgh, the Ospreys face a struggling Zebre, while Ulster come up against the Cardiff Blues in a match-up that could go a long way in determining the playoffs.
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images