A look ahead to this weekend’s derby between the Cheetahs and Kings, and the other matches in the final round of the Pro14.
There will be no love lost in Bloemfontein on Saturday when the Cheetahs and Kings wrap up their Pro14 campaigns in a South African derby where both sides will target a strong finish to the season.
The Cheetahs will eye back-to-back victories after defeating the Dragons 38-13 two weeks ago, but they will meet a Kings team determined to topple the Free State side for the first time in the competition.
The teams have crossed paths five times in the last two seasons, and the Cheetahs have emerged victorious on each occasion, but the margins have been close in their last three outings, with nine, seven and four points separating them on those scoreboards.
This will certainly inspire the visitors, who are only one log point ahead of the last-placed Dragons in Conference B going into the final pool round.
The rivalry between them aside, a few individuals will also look to remain at the top of the individual season records before the competition switches into the playoff stage next week.
The Cheetahs’ Tian Schoeman (118) and the Kings’ Masixole Banda (105) are currently in fourth and fifth place on the top points accumulators table, while Bloemfontein speedster Rabz Maxwane is still the top try-scorer with 14 tries – four ahead of Dan Evans of Ospreys. The 23-year-old’s try tally is the joint-most in a Pro14 season, and he needs just one more touchdown to break the record.
Maxwane leads the most clean breaks statistics with 34, while he is also in the race for the Dacia Ironman Award – which celebrates the player who has accumulated the most minutes on the field over the 21 pool rounds – against teammates Schoeman, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, as well as the Kings’ Yaw Penxe.
The top three in Conference A have been wrapped up, with the Glasgow Warriors, Munster and Connacht booking their spots in the playoffs. In Conference B, Irish clubs Leinster and Ulster have progressed further, but the last place from this conference is still up for grabs. And with two points separating them, Treviso, Scarlets and Edinburgh are all still in a position to advance.
The Scarlets will be looking to collect maximum log points against the struggling Dragons to boost their playoffs hopes, while Edinburgh have the difficult task of taking points off the Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium. Meanwhile, it is Treviso who are in pole position to go through to the playoffs. They take on Italian rivals Zebre and are favourites to come away with a win.
Elsewhere, the Cardiff Blues and Ospreys will square off in the other ‘Judgement Day’ derby, Ulster hosts Leinster and Munster welcome Connacht.
Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images