The Dragons face the Toyota Cheetahs in South Africa as both teams look to finish their Guinness PRO14 seasons with a flourish.
What’s at stake?
A victory for the Dragons will gives them a chance to leapfrog the Isuzu Southern Kings and lift themselves off the bottom of Conference B.
Meanwhile, the Cheetahs’ sixth-place finish in Conference A is secured but will hope for a victory in their penultimate home game of the season after five straight defeats.
Team News (Toyota Cheetahs)
Coach Franco Smith has moved JP du Preez into the starting line-up, with Sintu Manjezi providing cover on the bench whilst Tian Meyer replaces the injured William Small-Smith.
Oupa Mohoje (knee), Aidon Davis (broken leg), Junior Pokomela (back), Schalk van der Merwe (groin), Justin Basson (knee) and William Small-Smith (knee) all miss out through injury.
Team News (Dragons)
Wales international Elliott Dee will captain the team on his return and is one of four changes by head coach Ceri Jones.
Ryan Bevington, Lewis Evans and Jordan Williams also come in to the starting XV, with Richard Hibbard out due to a hamstring injury.
Dragons head coach Ceri Jones said: “We’ve had a really good week of preparation in Cape Town and now look to take that momentum into the weekend’s game.
“We know the Cheetahs are a dangerous team and are similar to the Kings in many ways.
“They like a fast offloading game and will want to keep the ball in play. Their pack of forwards are also a threat that we must match.
“The game is being played at altitude, so we need to factor that in and try and control the tempo of the game as much as we can.
“We’ve all enjoyed the trip to South Africa and come together closer as a squad.
“But it’s vital we now look to perform in the final game in Bloemfontein and secure that away win we all want.”
Did you know?
The Dragons’ 18-18 draw at the Isuzu Southern Kings on Sunday ended their 42-game losing run on the road in the Championship
Toyota Cheetahs have slipped to five straight defeats, their worst run since they were in Super Rugby in 2017.
Toyota Cheetahs: Malcolm Jaer, Tian Meyer, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Dries Swanepoel, Rabz Maxwane, Tian Schoeman, Shaun Venter, Charles Marais, Joseph Dweba, Luan de Bruin, Walk Steenkamp, JP du Preez (c), Gerhard Olivier, Abongile Nonkontwana, Henco Venter
Replacements: Marnus van der Merwe, Aranos Coetzee, Reinach Venter, Sintu Manjezi, Jasper Wiese, Rudy Paige, Louis Fouche, Darron Adonis
Dragons: Jordan Williams, Zane Kirchner, Adam Warren, Jack Dixon, Hallam Amos, Josh Lewis, Rhodri Williams, Ross Moriaty, Taine Basham, Aaron Wainwright, Lewis Evans, Matthew Screech, Leon Brown, Elliot Dee (c), Ryan Bevington
Replacements: Rhys Lawrence, Brok Harris, Lloyd Fairbrother, Max Williams, Huw Taylor, Tavis Knoyle, Jason Tovey, Will Talbot-Davies
TV: At Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, 7.35pm. Live on Premier Sports, DAZN and SuperSport
Referee: Sean Gallagher (IRFU)
AR1: John Lacey (IRFU)
AR2: Griffin Colby (SARU)
TMO: Johan Greeff (SARU)
Tian Schoeman scored 18 points to hand Toyota Cheetahs a hard-fought win over Dragons in South Africa.
It was an attritional first forty minutes, with Henco Venter driving over to take the lead before Taine Basham got one back after half time for Dragons.
Despite the visitors being in the game for an hour, Shaun Venter and Schoeman went over in quick succession to put Cheetahs firmly ahead, before Louis Fouche got the bonus point and Sibhale Maxwane added a late fifth.
Schoeman got the first points with a penalty, before Josh Lewis leveled the score half an hour in with a strike of his own from the tee.
It looked as though the two would go into the break all sqaure, but Venter managed to power over from close range on the stroke of half time.
Schoeman added the extras to make it 10-3 after 40 minutes in a tight encounter.
Dragons came racing out of the changing rooms and got the second half off to the perfect start, Basham muscling his way over following a spell of pressure from the visitors.
Lewis slotted the conversion to again pull Dragons level.
Not long after, Johannes Coetzee was sent to the bin for repeatedly pulling down the scrum and Lewis nailed the resulting penalty to give Dragons the lead for the first time.
But Cheetahs responded well, with Venter sniping off the back of a driving maul to evade the covering defender and dive over.
Schoeman made it 17-13 with the conversion as the hosts looked to hold on to their lead with a man down.
The fly half then added a third score for Cheetahs, stepping inside to crash over after great work and patience from the forwards to make ground.
Schoeman converted his own score and the South Africans put their foot to the floor.
Fouche was next to get on the scoreboard after Cheetahs turned over the ball in the scrum and some quick hands released the substitute to trot in, before Maxwane intercepted late on for an easy run in and the hosts’ fifth try.
The Guinness PRO14 Final is one of the most entertaining games in the rugby calendar and takes place in Glasgow’s Celtic Park on May 25. Tickets start at just £25 for adults, £1 for kids. Visit www.pro14rugby.org/finaltickets