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)
Connacht clinched a third successive Guinness PRO14 victory for the first time since March 2017 with a 21-17 victory over Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
In an open contest, the Irishmen unearthed a ruthless streak before the break as Tom Farrell and Gavin Thornbury’s tries proved enough to earn Connacht’s first victory over the Free State side on South African soil.
Cheetahs’ Shaun Venter provoked a late rallying call for the hosts with a try ten minutes from the end, but it proved in vain as the hosts fell to a seventh loss of the season.
Connacht flew out the blocks and they had the lead inside six minutes when Farrell skipped his way through the Cheetahs pack before spectacularly dummying his way around Malcolm Jaer to reach the try line. Jack Carty kicked for two.
Cheetahs steadily grew into the game and they almost broke back when Darren Adonis made his way to the line but was thwarted by a crunching challenge from Niyi Adeolokun.
Carty extended the lead with his boot midway through the tie before Thornbury struck a telling blow by bursting over the line with a rolling maul to score his first try of the season.
Cheetahs finally took one of their chances when the ball was threaded to speedster Jaer to guile his way over the whitewash and hold off an injured Adeolokun to reduce the deficit to 15-5.
Then when Connacht carelessly gave away a penalty in their own half, Cheetahs grasped the chance to score again as Joseph Dweba bulldozered his way down the blindside of the maul to score his fourth career try.
Both Cheetahs and Connacht threatened after the break, but a spate of individual handling errors scuppered the try scoring ability of both sides until replacement David Horwitz kicked a 57th minute penalty.
Another defensive error from the Cheetahs, this time from Joseph Dweba for not releasing, allowed Horwitz to kick his second penalty of the afternoon and stretch Connacht’s advantage to 21-10.
Franco Smith’s men began to fade, but out of nowhere with under ten minutes to go William Small-Smith popped up to bring the game back to life as he released Venter away to score the only try of the second half. Tian Schoeman converted, but it proved too little too late to have an effect.