Toyota Cheetahs welcome Munster to Bloemfontein in the last instalment of Guinness PRO14 action before the two-week international break.
Bottom-placed Cheetahs face the difficult challenge of hosting Irish powerhouse Munster who have won all three previous clashes between the two sides.
What’s at stake?
Four wins and three defeats have left Munster in third in Conference A in the early stages of the season, so a win would bolster their confidence ahead of the November Tests.
However, they won’t want to leave it as late as they did last weekend when Rory Scannell landed a long-range penalty with the final kick of the game to earn Munster a 25-24 win over Glasgow.
Meanwhile the Cheetahs, who picked up their first win of the PRO14 season against Cardiff Blues last weekend, still find themselves rooted to the bottom foot of the Conference A table.
Franco Smith’s side will be hoping to draw inspiration from last weekend’s performance and use their home advantage to kickstart a much-needed winning run.
Team News (Toyota Cheetahs):
Aidon Davis comes in at number eight for the injured Niell Jordaan.
Nico Lee moves to his usual position on inside centre and William Small-Smith moves to right wing, sending Rhyno Smith to fullback.
Meanwhile, 23-year-old Daniel Maartens is named amongst the replacements.
Team News (Munster):
Tyler Bleyendaal captains the side from inside centre with Bill Johnston and Fineen Wycherley making their first starts in the Guinness PRO14.
There are nine changes to the starting XV that secured a last-gasp win over Glasgow in Limerick last weekend.
Four changes to the backline see Shane Daly, Alex Wootton, Bleyendaal and Johnston all come into the side.
Academy player Daly starts on the right wing with Wootton, a try-scoring replacement in the win over Glasgow, on the opposite flank.
The five changes to the pack see Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer, Darren O’Shea, Wycherley and Arno Botha all included.
Munster head coach Johann van Graan said: It’s very exciting for us to come to South Africa with a very young squad. The Cheetahs have been playing very well over the last few weeks and we are looking to use our squad, you need depth.
“I think it was really tough for the Cheetahs in the opening weeks of the season as they had to play in two competitions. But they are back to one group now. They don’t really lose in Bloemfontein. Playing there on Sunday afternoon at altitude, it will be a really tough challenge for us.
“They play very well off their maul. They put you under pressure to put in numbers and they take it out wide and they have some real speed out wide, possibly some of the quickest guys in the competition. We’ll have to stop their maul at source and get numbers out to defend them.”
Key battle: Tian Schoeman v Bill Johnston
Highly-rated Bill Johnston will have the opportunity to showcase his potential as a playmaking fly-half when he makes his first Guinness PRO14 start this season for Munster.
With Johnston eager to impress, his opposite number Tian Schoeman faces the stern test of preventing him from influencing the game from the pivot position.
Key stat: Cheetahs have lost only two of their last nine encounters played in Bloemfontein, but they have never beaten Munster in a PRO14 fixture.
Did you know? Bleyendaal will be making his 40th appearance for Munster – his first in the PRO14 since February.
Toyota Cheetahs: Rhyno Smith, William Small-Smith, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Nico Lee, Rabz Maxwane, Tian Schoeman, Shaun Venter (c), Aidon Davis, Junior Pokamela, Gerhard Olivier, JP du Preez, Walt Steenkamp, Aranos Coetzee, Joseph Dweba, Ox Nche
Replacements: Reinach Venter, Charles Marais, Erich de Jager, Sinthu Manjezi, Justin Basson, Daniel Maartens, Abongile Nonkontwana, Tian Meyer, Louis Fouche
Munster: Mike Haley, Shane Daly, Sammy Arnold, Tyler Bleyendaal (c), Alex Wootton, Bill Johnston, Alby Mathewson, James Cronin, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Darren O’Shea, Fineen Wycherley, Chris Cloete, Arno Botha.
Replacements: Mike Sherry, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Sean O’Connor, Gavin Coombes, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Rory Scannell.
TV: At Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, 2.45pm. Live on Premier Sports, eir Sport
Referee: Marius Mitrea (83rd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Joy Cwengile Jadewenzi, Ruhan Meiring
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
Munster roared back in the closing moments to claim an incredible 30-26 win over Toyota Cheetahs.
Mike Haley sealed the win late on despite a stunning fightback from the Cheetahs to push the Irishmen to the final seconds of the match.
The victory ensured that Munster avoided losing to the South African’s for the first time since they joined the Guinness PRO14.
Toyota Cheetahs showed all the initiative in the early stages and their pace proved too much for Munster when Rhyno Smith cut through the Munster lines. But it came to nothing as Sibhale Maxwane couldn’t handle what looked to be a simple pass to open the scoring.
However, it was the Irish province that put the first points on the board through Bill Johnson’s successful penalty after 11 minutes and they soon had their first try following a collapsed Cheetahs scrum.
Munster opted to take the penalty quickly and Arno Botha showed a brilliant piece of initiative to wrestle the ball over the whitewash and put Munster 8-0 ahead after 15 minutes in Bloemfontein.
Franco Smith’s men were handed a way back into the game when South African Chris Cloete was sin-binned for kicking the ball in an offside position and Cheetahs were rewarded from the subsequent line-out when Joseph Dweba powered through from the ranks to score.
But Munster managed to hold on and they added to their lead when Kevin O’Byrne found a gap from the scrum to dot down. Johnson’s conversion ensured Munster went in 15-5 up at half-time.
Munster started the second-half in the same manner as the first, completing a stunning flowing move to go further ahead when Liam Coombes ran in down the right wing.
However, the Cheetahs didn’t give in easily and prop forward Ox Nche reduced the deficit from a smart short line-out to power over the line. Tiaan Schoeman kicked for two.
And another piece of individual brilliance brought the home crowd to their feet as Dweba scored his second try of the match thanks to a stunning incisive run from Shaun Venter.
The South-African outfoxed two players to find a gap in the line before racing through and chucking the ball over to Dweba to round off the move. Schoeman reduced the deficit to three points.
The fightback was completed on 63 minutes when Cheetahs scored their fourth try of the match with the fly-half breaking from 60 yards out before laying in Smith for his first try of the season.
Schoeman was unable to convert and it later cost them as Munster didn’t wilt under pressure and Haley drifted in to score the crucial game winning fourth try. Rory Scannell ensured the win with four minutes left from the tee.