The Cheetahs need just two log points against Munster in Bloemfontein on Friday to secure a place in the Pro14 playoffs. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
CHEETAHS vs MUNSTER (Friday, 19:35)
The Cheetahs will be gunning for victory, but a draw or two losing bonus points will see coach Rory Duncan’s men secure a spot in the six-team playoffs in their inaugural Pro14 campaign with one round remaining.
The highly-anticipated return of Johan Goosen to rugby will attract the most attention and his presence should massively aid the hosts’ cause.
The Cheetahs have won eight of their nine matches at home this season and should make it nine out of 10 after Munster coach Johann van Graan decided to rest his more senior players for their European Champions Cup semi-final.
However, Munster still have Simon Zebo, Andrew Conway, Peter O’Mahony and Niall Scannell in the starting lineup, with club legends Dave Kilcoyne, Conor Murray and Ian Keatley providing cover off the bench.
The Cheetahs will therefore have their work cut out for them, but should have enough firepower to secure their most important win of the season.
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Niel Marais, 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Clinton Swart, 23 AJ Coertzen.
Munster – 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Darren Sweetnam, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 James Hart, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Jack O’Donoghue, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Billy Holland, 4 Gerbrandt Grobler, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Brian Scott.
Subs: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave O’Callaghan, 20 Conor Oliver, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Rory Scannell.
KINGS vs CARDIFF BLUES (Saturday, 19:35)
The end of the league phase can’t come soon enough for the Kings, who have lost 18 of their 19 matches.
Coach Deon Davids’ men don’t have much to play for over the next two weeks, but they can do their compatriots, the Cheetahs, a big favour by denying the Blues maximum log points on Saturday.
There is a lot at stake for Cardiff. They have to be victorious in their last two matches and hope the Cheetahs slip up in order to qualify for the playoffs.
Kings –15 Masixole Banda, 14 Michael Makase, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Ntabeni Dukisa, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Martinus Burger, 6 Lusanda Badiyana, 5 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 4 Bobby de Wee, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Stephan Coetzee, 1 Schalk Ferreira (c).
Subs: 16 Tango Balekile, 17 Justin Forwood, 18 Luvuyo Pupuma, 19 Lindo Welemu, 20 Khaya Majola, 21 Rudi Van Rooyen, 22 Alshaun Bock, 23 Heinrich Klaasen.
Cardiff Blues –15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Ellis Jenkins (c), 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Rhys Gill.
Subs: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Anton Peikrishvili, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Olly Robinson, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Garyn Smith, 23 Matthew Morgan.
Elsewhere, the Glasgow Warriors host Connacht, Ulster welcome the Ospreys for a must-win game, Edinburgh travel to the Scarlets needing a win to book their place in the playoffs and eliminate Ulster, Zebre will start as favourites against the visiting Dragons, and Leinster will host Benneton.