MARIETTE ADAMS looks ahead to the Pro14 matches involving the Kings and Cheetahs this weekend.
MUNSTER vs KINGS (Friday, 9:35pm)
The Kings have been having a hard time of it in the Pro14. While the ambition and desire are there, they’ve lacked in the execution department and as result have slipped to 12 defeats this season.
However, the Kings can often spring a surprise, as they did in their victorious matches against title contenders the Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh, and this clash against Munster could well be one of those where they seize the opportunity to cause an upset.
Against a Munster side short of several of their Irish Test players, who are away on Six Nations duty, the Kings should be targeting a rare away win or at least two losing bonus points. Anything less will be seen as an underperformance.
The Kings are without their kingpin, Ntabeni Dukisa, which has opened the door for Bader Pretorius to start at flyhalf. The 21-year-old is up against the more established Tyler Bleyendaal this week, but this is the perfect opportunity for him to gain experience.
Munster – 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Darren Sweetnam, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal (c), 9 Neil Cronin, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Finnen Wycherley, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman.
Subs: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Liam O’Connor, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Darren O’Shea, 20 Gavin Coombes, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Dan Goggin.
Kings – 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Meli Rokoua, 12 Berton Klaasen, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Bader Pretorius, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Tienie Burger, 6 Steph de Wit, 5 JC Astle, 4 Andries van Schalkwyk, 3 De-Jay Terblanche, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Pieter Scholtz, 19 Stephan Greeff, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Tertius Kruger, 23 Ulrich Beyers.
CONNACHT vs CHEETAHS (Saturday, 7:30pm)
These teams have played each other three times, and not once has a contest between them been short of entertainment.
According to the Pro14’s per-game averages, both teams are ranked in the top half of the tournament for carries (Cheetahs 157.7, Connacht 207.6), metres made (Cheetahs 660.4, Connacht 587.2) and tackles made (Cheetahs 190.7, Connacht 183.9).
Connacht, though, are better placed in the Conference A standings, with the Cheetahs in sixth spot despite winning their last four games on the trot. Interestingly, only two log points separate the sides and a win for the Cheetahs could propel them above Connacht into a playoff place.
The Cheetahs have made steady progress and are now playing with real confidence. Yes, they have been dealt a couple of injury blows in the lead-up to this game, but they have the luxury of bringing in experienced campaigners as replacements. Crocked duo Malcolm Jaer and Benhard Janse van Rensburg have been replaced by Louis Fouché and Dries Swanepoel, both former Bulls representatives.
Connacht are striving to break a two-game losing streak and have selected a strong lineup that includes ex-Brumbies trio Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler and Kyle Godwin.
On the basis of the short history between these sides and the quality of players on display, we can expect another thrilling contest on Saturday.
Connacht – 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Stephen Fitzgerald, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Eoin McKeon, 5 James Cannon, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley.
Subs: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Cillian Gallagher, 20 Paul Boyle, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Kyle Godwin.
Cheetahs – 15 Louis Fouché, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Shaun Venter (c), 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Abongile Nonkontwana, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Jasper Wiese, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Charles Marais.
Subs: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Walt Steenkamp, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Rudy Paige.
The Dragons are in for a tough challenge when they face Edinburgh away, the Ospreys square off against a resurgent Ulster, Leinster will look to collect maximum log points against Zebre, Treviso welcome the Scarlets to Italy and the Cardiff Blues will be hoping to pull off an upset against the Glasgow Warriors.
Photo: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images