With only seven rounds of the regular Guinness PRO14 season remaining, things are starting to heat up in both Conferences.
In Conference A, Toyota Cheetahs head to Ospreys looking for just their third away victory of the season with the Welsh side attempting to claw their way back into Final Series contention.
What’s at stake?
The Cheetahs have lost two in a row during their latest road trip, going down at Cardiff Blues and Glasgow Warriors.
Those defeats have left the South African’s eight points adrift of second-placed Munster and eight points clear of Cardiff Blues.
As for Ospreys, it’s two victories in their last three games with the most recent triumph coming last time out against Southern Kings.
If the Welsh region make it three wins in four they could leapfrog Connacht into fifth place in Conference A.
Team news (Ospreys):
Reuben Morgan-Williams will make his first Guinness PRO14 start this weekend at scrum-half and there’s a special moment for Ashley Beck who will make his 100th Championship appearance.
Nicky Smith, Dmitri Arhip, Guy Mercer and Sam Cross are the other changes to the Welsh side’s starting XV.
Meanwhile Ma’afu Fia will turn out for his 50th Ospreys appearance if he comes off of the bench.
Team news (Toyota Cheetahs):
The Cheetahs make just two changes to the side that went down 37-23 to the Glasgow Warriors last week.
Johan Coetzee replaces Luan de Bruin in the front row with Paul Schoeman slotting in at flanker.
Ospreys interim head coach, Allen Clarke, said: “Everybody here understands the importance of this game to our aspirations for this season. The win last weekend was crucial for us and we got what we needed from the Kings game even if we know that the performance wasn’t at the level we want it to be.
“There’s a healthy realism about where we are and what we need to do to improve our position over the coming weeks, starting on Saturday evening. We have to build on the last result.
“We know where we are in the table but to give credit to the squad the mood is good and the environment is a positive one with people wanting to be here, wanting to work hard.
“Whatever the outcome this weekend, or this season, that’s something positive that we can build on for the future. Ultimately though, we all understand that we’ll be judged by what happens on the field on game day.”
Key battle: Olly Cracknell vs Paul Schoeman
Two of the biggest hitters in the Guinness PRO14 collide at the Liberty Stadium as flankers Olly Cracknell and Paul Schoeman go toe-to-toe.
The pair have produced an incredible 328 tackles between them this season with Cracknell also clocking up a league-best 185 carries in 15 rounds of action.
Torsten Van Jaarsveld also has an impressive 138 tackles to his name and if the Cheetahs are to arrest a worrying slump in away results they’ll need their pack to perform in south Wales.
Owen Watkin beat seven defenders during Ospreys’ convincing 26-12 victory over Southern Kings in Round 15, only Glasgow Warriors’ Nick Grigg beat more across the entire Guinness PRO14.
Did you know?
The Toyota Cheetahs have one only triumphed once outside of South Africa – beating Zebre in Parma in Round 7.
Ospreys: Dan Evans, Jeff Hassler, Kieron Fonotia, Ashley Beck, Tom Habberfield (C), Sam Davies, Reuben Morgan-Williams, Nicky Smith, Sam Parry, Dmitri Arhip, Adam Beard, James King, Olly Cracknell, Guy Mercer, Sam Cross
Replacements: Ifan Phillips, Rhodri Jones, Ma’afu Fia, Alex Jeffries, James Hook, Luke Price, Owen Watkin, Hanno Dirksen
Toyota Cheetahs: Clayton Blommetjies, Craig Barry, Francois Venter (C), Nico Lee, Malcolm Jaer, Niel Marais, Shaun Venter, Charles Marais, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Johan Coetzee, Justin Basson, Reniel Hugo, Paul Schoeman, Henco Venter, Uzair Cassiem
Replacements: Jacques du Toit, Ox Nche, Erich de Jager, Renier Bernardo, Oupa Mohoje, Zee Mkhabela, Fred Zeilinga, Luther Obi
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Dewi Phillips (WRU) and Rob Price (WRU)
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Ticket prices start at just €35 for adults and €10 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie
Sam Davies held his nerve to kick Ospreys to victory over the Toyota Cheetahs and keep alive their faint hopes of a Guinness PRO14 Final Series berth.
It was the third defeat for the Cheetahs in a row, having previously lost to Glasgow Warriors and Cardiff Blues, and increases the pressure on them as they look to hold on to third place in Conference A.
Tries from Torsten Van Jaarsveld, and Reniel Hugo gave the Cheetahs an early lead before Ospreys hit back through Ashley Beck shortly after half-time.
Nico Lee went over a few minutes later for the visitors but they were pegged back once more, this time by a Sam Cross try.
Craig Barry’s try on 57 minutes looked to have made the result secure, but a Davies penalty, and Ifan Phillips’ 78th minute try snatched the victory from the Cheetah’s grasp.
The visitors started strongly, with Lee going over for a try, only for the ball to be held up, after just four minutes.
They wouldn’t have to wait long to break the deadlock however, as Van Jaarsveld muscled his way over the try line on nine minutes.
Five minutes later they had a second, second row Hugo crossing for the visitors this time as they began to show why they sit in third in Conference A.
Ospreys grew into the half, but struggled to break the Cheetah’s defence, with Sam Davies putting their first points on the board on the stroke of half-time with a penalty.
The game opened up in the second period as the Cheetahs sought to take the game away from Ospreys, but it was the home side who struck first.
Ashley Beck brought Ospreys back into contention and with Sam Davies’ conversion they were just two points behind.
Lee then bagged his try after having had one ruled out in the first half, brilliantly running in from 60m to score.
Ospreys came back again through Sam Cross, but just a few minutes after that, Barry intercepted a loose pass and ran in to secure the try bonus point for the Cheetahs.
Ospreys edged closer towards the Cheetahs try line as the clock ticked down and Phillips was the man to score, leaving Davies to add the extras and win the game, which he duly did.
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