The Toyota Cheetahs continue their introduction to life in the Guinness PRO14 and will have learned a few things from the 42-19 defeat at Ulster in round one. Munster fans will look forward to seeing an exciting new team play at Thomond Park on Saturday at 5.15pm and the players will be keen to make their mark in a historic encounter.
What’s at stake? Having been well-beaten in the 2017 Guinness PRO14 final Munster responded with a composed 34-3 win over Benetton Rugby last week, which they’ll be keen to reinforce against the Cheetahs. The South African side will hope to get their first win of the season as soon as possible, and having given as good as they got against Ulster will look to tighten up their defence.
Team news (Munster Rugby): Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has made just one change from last week’s side, with Ian Keatley coming in for fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal. Lock Billy Holland takes over the captaincy from Bleyendaal and experienced full-back Andrew Conway will make his 100th Guinness PRO14 appearance.
Team news (Toyota Cheetahs): Francois Venter takes over the captaincy from Neill Jordaan on his return from the Springbok camp. He will play at centre outside William Small-Smith, while Sergeal Petersen moves out to the right wing from full-back. Clayton Blommetjies comes in to cover at 15 and Robbie Petzer will start at fly-half. In the pack, Rynier Bernardo is the only change, replacing Justin Basson at lock.
Talking points: The Cheetahs have already seen how much of an advantage an Irish home crowd can provide on their visit to the Kingspan last weekend. Thomond Park is just as tough a venue for visitors, so the South Africans cannot expect any reprieve in front of the fans in Limerick.
Key Battle: Two Springboks may well decide the game in the Cheetahs second fixture on Irish shores, as a returning Francois Venter faces compatriot Jaco Taute in the midfield. Both players have three caps for their country and, while Venter will be a crucial playmaker for his side, Taute will not make it easy for the visiting outside centre.
Key stat: Munster have lost just once in the regular season of the Guinness PRO14 since round 6 last year: 21-13 to champions Scarlets in Limerick in February.
Did you know? The Cheetahs have not lost successive games since they visited New Zealand in Super Rugby in May.
Munster Rugby: A Conway; D Sweetnam, C Farrell, J Taute, A Wootton; I Keatley, D Williams; L O’Connor, R Marshall, S Archer; J Kleyn, B Holland (c); S O’Connor, T O’Donnell, J O’Donoghue.
Replacements: N Scannell, D Kilcoyne, J Ryan, F Wycherley, R Copeland, J Hart, R Scannell, S Zebo.
Toyota Cheetahs: C Blommetjies; S Petersen, F Venter, W Small-Smith, M Mapimpi; R Petzer, S Venter; C Marais, J du Toit, J Coetzee; R Bernardo, R Hugo; P Schoeman, H Venter, N Jordaan.
Replacements: T van Jaarsveld, O Nche, T Botha, A Koster, G Olivier, T Meyer, A Mgijima, R Benjamin.
TV: TG4 and SuperSport1 (KO 5.15pm)
Match officials – Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU). Assistant Referee 1: Wayne Davies (WRU). AR2: Mark Patton (IRFU). TMO: Jon Mason (WRU).
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie
Alex Wootton was the star for the home side, crossing the whitewash four times as Munster showed newcomers Toyota Cheetahs there are no easy games in Ireland, defeating the South Africans 51-18.
Man of the Match Wootton was seemingly unstoppable on the wing as Munster sent perfectly precise offloads out to the left, helping the 23-year-old go over in the corner twice in the first half.
After dotting down twice more, the winger was forced to leave the field to make room for Ireland international Simon Zebo, who added his name to the scoresheet within minutes, claiming Munster’s eighth try of the afternoon.
Cheetahs brought the score to 22-11 at one stage with a try from William Small-Smith, but Rassie Erasmus’ men swiftly ramped up the intensity to run away with the win.
Ian Keatley opened the scoring for the home side early on, claiming three points after three minutes when the Cheetahs were caught offside.
The Munster scrum looked dominant from the outset and Tommy O’Donnell made the most of this, taking an offload from Jack O’Donoghue to touch down.
Keatley made no mistake with the conversion and the Munstermen continued to pile on the pressure, driving the ball up to the five-metre line again and again.
Robbie Petzer took the chance to reduce the deficit to seven with a penalty, but a mere two minutes later Wootton scored his first try of the day thanks to a stunning skip pass from Darren Sweetnam.
Wootton was back across the whitewash before the half-time whistle, as the ball was sped across to the left wing out of a maul to help the Irishman claim five more points.
The second half had barely begun before Francois Venter, making his return from Springbok camp, showed his usual attacking prowess to find a gap, allowing William Small-Smith to dot down.
Munster were quick to respond and claim the bonus-point try, as last year’s finalists formed a maul from the line-out and Jean Kleyn scored his third try in two games.
The barrage continued as Chris Farrell scored the first try of his Munster career, before Wootton secured his third of the day.
Sweetnam repeated his first-half feat to set Wootton up again with another sublime offload and Keatley added two more as the hosts pulled away with an insurmountable lead.
The Munster maul sprung into action once more after 70 minutes and, after a check with the TMO, Zebo was awarded his first club try of the season.
But Henco Venter made sure the Cheetahs had something to take back to South Africa, scoring a consolation try in the 80th minute.