The Cheetahs should make a winning return to action when they face Treviso in Italy this Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
TREVISO vs CHEETAHS
After conceding nearly 100 points in their first two matches, the Cheetahs have gone from strength to strength in the Pro14, which has seen them win six of their last eight games.
The Cheetahs’ last victory came in an impressive performance against defending champions, the Scarlets, at the beginning of December, and the Free State side remains firmly entrenched in third place in Conference A.
The Cheetahs and Kings enjoyed a break over the festive season, and will now return refreshed and ready for action.
Also working in the Cheetahs’ favour is the fact that they have been boosted by the return of Springboks Francois Venter, Oupa Mohoje and Uzair Cassiem, who missed the last couple of Pro14 matches due to international duty.
This should provide the Cheetahs with the necessary edge as they come up against an inconsistent Treviso side that has managed just five wins from 12 games in Conference B.
Following this weekend, the Cheetahs should back themselves to emerge victorious in back-to-back games against the Kings, while potentially drawing closer to Munster and the Warriors currently at the top of Conference A.
Treviso – 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Marco Barbini , 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Whetu Douglas, 5 Dean Budd (C), 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Nicola Quagli
Subs: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Cherif Traore, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Marco Fuser, 21 Sebastian Negri, 22 Edoardo Gori, 23 Ian McKinley
Cheetahs – 15 Craig Barry, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Makazola Mapimpi, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Hugo Reniel, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (c), 1 Charles Marais
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Niel Marais, 23 AJ Coertzen.
EDINBURGH vs KINGS
It’s been a seriously unhappy introduction to the Pro14 for the Kings, who have lost all 10 games, and conceded a whopping 391 points.
When the Kings recently faced Edinburgh on 1 December, they suffered a heavy 48-21 loss, and the Port Elizabeth-based outfit will know that they are in for another considerable challenge in Scotland’s capital.
To make matters worse, the Kings are also missing a number of key players such as Andisa Ntsila, Michael Willemse and Anthony Volmink.
Schalk Ferreira will lead the Kings out on Friday night and they will be looking for flyhalf Kurt Coleman to control proceedings from the flyhalf berth.
But it’s the hosts who will head into this encounter as firm favourites.
Edinburgh – 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Nathan Fowles, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Tools, 3 Murray McCallum, 2 Stuart McInally (c), 1 Jordan Lay.
Subs: 16 Cameron Fenton, 17 Elliot Millar-Mills, 18 Matt Shields, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Viliame Mata, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Chris Dean, 23 Damien Hoyland.
Kings – 15 Ntabeni Dukisa, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Martin du Toit, 11 Alshaun Bock, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Rudi van Rooyen, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Martinus Burger, 6 Bredenkamp Eitel, 5 Dries van Schalkwyk, 4 Jurie van Vuuren, 3, Russow de Klerk, 2 Stephan Coetzee, 1 Schalk Ferreira (c).
Subs: 16 Tango Balekile, 17 Njabulo Gumede, 18 Pieter Scholtz, 19 Lindokuhle Welemu, 20 Fredy Ngoza, 21 Rowan Gouws/Godlen Masimla, 22 Harlon Klaasen, 23 Masixole Banda.
In the only other game on Friday, the Scarlets should maintain their position at the top of Conference B as they prepare to host the struggling Dragons.
On Saturday, the Cardiff Blues will be favourites to overcome the Ospreys, while the Warriors are likely to inflict a heavy defeat on Zebre.
In what should be one of the more memorable matches of the weekend, Leinster will host Ulster, while Munster should be expected to crush Connacht.
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images