The Cheetahs should be wary of Connacht’s unpredictability on attack when they square off in Galway on Saturday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
CONNACHT vs CHEETAHS
The first encounter between the Cheetahs and Connacht holds the promise of a classic. A lack of consistency has haunted both sides, although the Cheetahs have done slightly better than their hosts in recent weeks.
The men from Bloemfontein have won four of their last five matches, while Connacht have lost four of their last five. However, Connacht’s 20-16 upset victory over Munster last week suggests they should not be underestimated or regarded as underdogs ahead of any game.
The Cheetahs will be wary of Connacht’s attack, but it’s their suffocating defence that should be just as much of a concern. Last week Connacht restricted a British & Irish Lions-laden Munster side to one try, despite the visitors winning the territorial battle. To underline their superior defence, Connacht only missed nine tackles.
The Cheetahs need their forwards – who have been industrious so far in the competition – to win the set-piece battle and to get over the gainline, while also wearing down Connacht’s resistant defence in order to set a platform for the backs to flourish.
In team news, centre Tertius Kruger and flank Jasper Wiese will make their Pro14 debuts after being selected in the starting lineup. In an unprecedented move, Fred Zeilinga will start at fullback, and his role as a second playmaker should aid the Cheetahs’ cause on attack.
Connacht –15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Darragh Leader, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Niyi Adeolokun, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 John Muldoon (c), 7 Eoin McKeon, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 James Cannon, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley.
Subs: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Denis Coulson, 18 Conor Carey, 19 Gavin Thornbury, 20 Naulia Dawai, 21 Conor McKeon, 22 Steve Crosbie, 23 Matt Healy.
Cheetahs – 15 Fred Zeilinga, 14 Luther Obi, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Ernst Stapelberg, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Junior Pokomela, 7 Jasper Wiese, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (c), 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Dennis Visser, 20 Rynier Bernardo, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Aji Mgijima, 23 Shaun Venter.
KINGS vs ULSTER
Ulster will target this fixture to get back in the winner’s circle following their disappointing 15-point loss at home to fierce-rivals Leinster.
By contrast, the Kings have merely been making up the numbers. They look destined to finish at the bottom of the log in Conference B, and with the fewest overall log points (if any).
Coach Deon Davids has made three changes to his team, who will be without captain Mike Willemse through injury, and Ulster can be expected to collect maximum log points in Zwide.
Kings – 15 Yaw Penxe, 14 Michael Makase, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Alshaun Bock, 10 Oliver Zono, 9 Rudi van Rooyen, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Jurie van Vuuren, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Bobby de Wee, 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Stephan Coetzee, 1 Schalk Ferreira (c).
Subs: 16 Tango Balekile, 17 Miami Majola, 18 Martin Dreyer//Luvuyo Pupuma, 19 Lindokuhle Welemu, 20 Dries van Schalkwyk, 21 Rowan Gouws, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Jarryd Sage.
Ulster – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Darren Cave, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 John Cooney, 8 Sean Reidy, 7 Chris Henry (c), 6 Matty Rea, 5 Alan O’Connor, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 John Andrew, 1 Andy Warwick.
Subs: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Callum Black, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Clive Ross, 21 Jonny Stewart, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Tommy Bowe.
The Glasgow Warriors will engage in a cross-conference encounter with Leinster, Munster welcome the battling Dragons to Thomond Park, while the Scarlets are favoured to win their match against Treviso at home. Edinburgh and the Ospreys will also square off, with Zebre travelling to the out-of-form Cardiff Blues.
Photo: Gallo Images