Toyota Cheetahs will be looking to complete back-to-back wins in the Guinness PRO14 when they welcome Connacht Rugby to Bloemfontein in Round 10 this weekend.
The hosts are down in sixth position in Conference A after a sluggish start to the campaign, while the Irish province have enjoyed a solid start to the season and currently sit in third place.
What’s at stake?
Connacht are in good shape after nine rounds of the Guinness PRO14, with Andy Friend’s troops winning five games so far to put themselves right in the mix in Conference A.
The visitors have won their last two games against Dragons and Southern Kings, with the latter an impressive bonus-point victory in Port Elizabeth last weekend.
But they face a Cheetahs side who have found some form in recent weeks, winning two of their last three games having started the 2018/19 campaign with six games without a victory.
Daniel Maartens was the hero last time out as they edged out Benetton 31-25 and the South African franchise will hope they can build on that momentum to continue their Conference A ascent.
Team news (Cheetahs):
Erich de Jager comes into the starting line-up for the hosts, with Aranos Coetzee moving to the bench, while Sintu Manjezi and JP du Preez will be the starting locks.
Junior Pokomela, Abongile Nonkontwana and Gerhard Olivier will form the loose trio, while Shaun Venter will captain the side alongside Louis Fouche.
Despite his stellar performance last weekend, Daniel Maartens starts on the bench, but there will be a Guinness PRO14 debut for Darren Adonis – having come through the academy ranks.
Nico Lee remains in the midfield alongside William Small-Smith, who replaces Benhard Janse van Rensburg, with Rhyno Smith and Malcolm Jaer completing the backline.
Buy your ticket and support the team when they take on Connacht in their last Guinness PRO14 game of the year.
📍Toyota Stadium pic.twitter.com/KN146pMHx5
— Toyota Cheetahs (@CheetahsRugby) November 30, 2018
Team news (Connacht):
There are five changes to the starting team for Connacht after last weekend’s bonus-point victory against the Southern Kings as they look to seal back-to-back wins in South Africa.
Tom McCartney starts at hooker, replacing Shane Delahunt who moves to the bench, with the experienced line-out operator joining props Denis Buckley and Conor Carey.
Lock Gavin Thornbury also returns after a shoulder injury he sustained while playing Scarlets earlier this season, while Robin Copeland and Paul Boyle will line up alongside captain Jarrad Butler.
Niyi Adeolokun is the only chance to the backline, replacing Cian Kelleher on the wing, with Jack Carty continuing his half-back partnership with Caolin Blade.
Connacht head coach Andy Field said: “The win against the Kings last week was hugely important for the morale among the group and it sets us up for the challenge of taking on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
“The players have worked really hard in training over the two weeks. They have been hugely challenged in the intensity and physicality that we have worked on and they have responded well.
“Coming over here we set ourselves the target of two wins and that firmly remains our goal. We will need a step up in intensity and execution from where we were last weekend to challenge the Cheetahs.
“They are a competitive side who are well able to throw the ball around and open teams up and the boys are well aware of that, but we will continue to focus on our game and constantly improving ourselves and delivering a result.”
Cheetahs coach Franco Smith said: “For us it is going to be important to build on our performance and to keep momentum going. We would like to end the year off with another win. We know what is expected of us.”
‼️ TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT ‼️
There are five changes with McCartney, Thornbury, Boyle, Copeland and Adeolokun all coming into the starting XV. #StrongerInGreen
— Connacht Rugby (@connachtrugby) November 30, 2018
Key battle: Jack Carty v Louis Fouche
The battle at ten could prove decisive in Bloemfontein, especially with Jack Carty coming into the game fresh from a man-of-the-match performance against Isuzu Southern Kings.
Carty orchestrated the game against Kings, scoring seven points and setting up the first try for Cian Kelleher in the process, and he will be looking to produce a repeat showing against Cheetahs.
Tian Schoeman is usually a linchpin for Cheetahs, but after Fouche’s successful late cameo against Benetton, Smith has put his trust in the 28-year-old to provide the control his side needs.
Key fact: Cheetahs only two victories over Irish provinces in the Guinness PRO14 were both in Bloemfontein to Leinster in September2017 and Connacht in March 2018.
Did you know? Connacht have not won three matches in a row in the Guinness PRO14 since March 2017 and have not won successive away matches since February 2017.
Cheetahs: Malcolm Jaer, Rhyno Smith, William Small-Smith, Nico Lee, Darren Adonis; Louis Fouche, Shaun Venter (c); Ox Nche, Joseph Dweba, Erich de Jager, Sintu Manjez, JP du Preez, Junior Pokomela, Abongile Nonkontwana, Gerhard Olivier
Replacements: Marnus van der Merwe, Charles Marais, Aranos Coetzee, Justin Basson, Daniel Maartens, Rudi Paige, Tian Schoeman, Benhard Janse van Rensburg
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Jarrad Butler (c), Robin Copeland
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, James Cannon, Colby Fainga’a, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Cian Kelleher
TV: Live on SuperSport2, Premier Sports 2, and Eir Sport 1
Referee: Dan Jones (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Craig Evans (WRU), Ben Crouse (SARU)
TMO: Johan Greeff (SARU)
Glasgow Warriors extended their lead at the top of Conference A with a stunning victory 29-20 victory over high-flying Scarlets despite playing the majority of the game with 14 men.
Alex Allan was sent off for a dangerous challenge inside the first quarter, but it only served as inspiration for the Warriors as Brandon Thomson scored an insatiable 24 points on the night.
Key tries from Thomson and Nick Grigg swung the tie as Scarlets’ late flurry of scores from Steff Evans and Clayton Blommetjies proved in vain against a voracious Glasgow outfit.
Rhys Patchell and Thomson traded penalties early doors, before the game irreversibly changed when Allan made direct contact to the head of Jake Ball to leave referee Frank Murphy with no decision but to send the Warriors man to the stands.
Despite the man disadvantage, Glasgow reacted perfectly by claiming a penalty from the scrum which Thomson sent sailing through the posts.
Glasgow found themselves temporarily level in numbers when Scarlets’ Lewis Rawlins was sent to the bin and Glasgow were rewarded with the first try of the night as patient build up play led to Thomson stretching his arm out across the line to score.
The fly-half converted his own try to give the Warriors a breathless 13-3 lead at half time.
Incredibly Glasgow’s scoring spree didn’t end there as just a minute after the break Rory Jackson sent a kick flying over the Scarlets defence for Nick Grigg to run onto and burst his way down the pitch to score the Warriors’ second try. Thomson kicked to notch his tally up to 15 points.
Last year’s semi-finalists were almost further ahead after a stunning breakaway led to Robbie Nairn crossing the whitewash, but the score was slated off for a forward pass in the build-up.
The visitors didn’t give in easily as Jonathan Davies rewarded Wayne Pivac’s side’s patient approach with an unstoppable sprint over the line to score Scarlets’ first try.
Thomson added then another two penalties to stretch the lead to 18 points as Scarlets rung the changes with Tom Phillips emerging off the bench to play his first match since February 2017.
He soon found himself trudging back off the field for a shoulder tackle on Tim Swinson, but in his absence, Evans reduced the deficit for the Welshmen following an intercepted pass.
Then replacement Blommetjies capitalised on a stunning run from Patchell to cut the lead, before the assist maker converted with four minutes to go.
Glasgow’s Thomson ensured the victory with his fifth penalty to put to bed a four-game losing streak to Scarlets and deny their opponents a bonus point.