Friday night’s clash between Edinburgh and the Toyota Cheetahs kicks off round six of the Guinness PRO14.
Both sides made the play-offs last year, but have made slow starts to the current campaign.
What’s at stake? Having won just one of their first four games at the start of the new campaign, Richard Cockerill’s side got back on track with a 31-30 victory over Benetton Rugby after holding off a second-half fightback from the Italians.
Meanwhile, Cheetahs fell agonisingly short of their first win of the campaign against Cardiff Blues in an equally tight game, after Sibahle Maxwane and Benhard Janse van Rensburg had put them ahead.
The two sides have only met once before, with Cheetahs defeating Edinburgh 33-13 in Bloemfontein last season.
Team news (Edinburgh): Cockerill has made four changes ahead of the clash at BT Murrayfield.
As Edinburgh look to secure their fifth consecutive home victory in all competitions, three players are rotated into the backline.
James Johnstone and Juan Pablo Socino are named in the midfield, while winger Darcy Graham makes his first start since featuring against Leinster in February.
Cockerill makes just one change to the pack as Rory Sutherland makes his first start of the season at loosehead prop.
Team news (Toyota Cheetahs): Jacques Du Toit comes in at hooker for the South Africans while Justin Basson also comes in for Walt Steenkamp in the second row.
In the back row Neill Jordaan moves to flanker replacing Gerhard Olivier and Stephen Malan gets the nod at No.8.
In the back line Louis Fouche comes in at No.15 at the expense of Ryno Eksteen who misses out with a knee injury.
Talking points Richard Cockerill, said: “We’ve named a strong, combative side who’ll be looking to make amends following last weekend’s disappointing performance against Benetton.
“Whilst we were happy with the result and certain aspects of our play, the squad know that there is plenty to improve on if we’re going to challenge in the league.
“Cheetahs are a physical, abrasive outfit with quick backs out wide that’ll punish you throughout the 80 minutes. However, we’ve got plenty of belief, especially at home, and I’ve got every confidence that this group of players can bounce back tomorrow night.”
Cheetahs Head Coach Franco Smith: “It’s a great honour for the team to play at Murrayfield. Murrayfield is an icon in world rugby with lots of history and tradition.”
“We’ve made changes to team due to Gerhard Olivier’s return back home and Ryno Eksteen’s injury.
“We are glad to have Abongile Nonkontwana who joined the team on tour. He joined the Toyota Cheetahs earlier this year without a contract but proved himself worthy by working himself up through the SuperSport Rugby Challenge and Currie Cup. It proves again that Free State Rugby is a breeding ground of opportunity and that we will always keep on producing talent.”
Key battle – Juan Pablo Socino v Nico Lee
Juan Pablo Socino comes into the starting lineup this weekend for Edinburgh itching to make an impact in what is become a congested midfield battle.
And the Argentine will be eager to impress in his head to head match-up with Nico Lee who remains a standout star for the Cheetahs.
No one in the Guinness PRO14 this season has made more than Lee’s 62 carries and his tireless efforts will surely pay off with a victory before too long.
Key stat: Edinburgh Rugby’s last eight matches have all gone the way of the home side on the day
Did you know? Cheetahs were defeated on their only previous visit to Scotland, 23-37 at Glasgow in February.
Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn, Darcy Graham, James Johnstone, Juan Pablo Socino, Duhan van der Merwe, Simon Hickey, Henry Pyrgos, Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Magnus Bradbury, Hamish Watson, Bill Mata
Replacements: Ross Ford, Murray McCallum, Simon Berghan, Luke Hamilton, Jamie Ritchie, Sean Kennedy, Jaco van der Walt, Chris Dean
Cheetahs: Louis Fouche, William Small Smith, Bernhard van Jensburg, Nico Lee, Rabz Maxwane, Tian Schoeman, Tian Meyer, Ox Nche, Jacques Du Toit, Aranos Coetzee, Justin Basson, JP du Preez, Neil Jordaan, Junior Pokamela, Stephan Malan
Replacements: Joseph Dweba, Charles Marais, Gunther Janse van Vuuren, Walt Steenkamp, Daniel Maartens, Abongile Nonkontwana, Shaun Venter, Alli Mgijima
At BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, 7.35pm
TV: Live on Free Sports, Premier Sports and SuperSport
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR,81st competition game) Assistant Referees: Manuel Bottino (FIR), Ian Kenny (SRU) Citing Commissioner: John Kirk (SRU) TMO: Andrew McMenemy (SRU)
Bill Mata and Jamie Ritchie scored late as Edinburgh Rugby secured a second home win in a week as they saw off Toyota Cheetahs in a thrilling battle at BT Murrayfield.
The lightning Sibhale Maxwane scored twice for the visitors but Mata and Ritchie, along with further scores from Ben Toolis and Darcy Graham, carried the hosts to victory.
The Cheetahs remain winless this season but showed plenty of promise at Edinburgh, with their brand of fast and attacking rugby causing all kinds of problems.
Edinburgh move above Ulster and Benetton in Conference B, setting them up nicely for the beginning of the Champions Cup next weekend.
Fresh from a nervy win against Benetton Rugby last weekend, Edinburgh came out of the blocks fast – with Simon Hickey slotting through the first points of the match with a penalty.
The fly-half added a second, benefiting from Edinburgh’s forward dominance before the first try of the match arrived mid-way through the first half.
Lock Toolis got his head down and powered forward from a metre out following several phases of play near the Cheetahs line.
Edinburgh were firmly in control but that all changed in an instant when the Cheetahs turned over the ball deep in their own half. Maxwane charged down the left, showing blistering speed to get beyond Graham and taking the ball to just five metres out.
He was just about prevented from scoring, but he popped a pass off to Nico Lee to touch down and score.
But Edinburgh stretched their lead minutes before the half-time whistle following a scrum 20 metres out. They switched the ball right, where they managed to create an overload and Graham sprinted through to score.
The Cheetahs hit back after the break with the dangerous Maxwane getting through on the left. After William Small-Smith was stopped 20 metres out down the right, they switched the play, created an overlap and the wing had a simple finish.
That shook Edinburgh and the visitors took advantage, punching holes in their defence each time they ran forward – getting over the gainline with every phase.
Full-back Louis Fouche made the big break and was stopped just five metres short but a couple of phases later, Tiaan Schoeman found Maxwane on his inside shoulder and the wing stepped inside an Edinburgh defender to touch down.
A successful conversion from Schoeman moved the visitors one point ahead, but it was short-lived – as Hickey booted a third penalty of the night from 30 metres.
That settled the hosts and they pulled clear with 15 minutes to go as Mata peeled off the back of a scrum and planted the ball down.
And the hosts secured the bonus point when Ritchie scored with just two minutes left.