All eyes will be on Bloemfontein on Friday night where Glasgow Warriors and Toyota Cheetahs will do battle in the opening game of the new Guinness PRO14 season.
Warriors came within a whisker of winning their second Championship in the 2018/19 campaign, only for defending champions Leinster to fend off their challenge in last season’s pulsating final.
But Glasgow will be looking to hit the ground running when they take on the South African outfit in their own backyard – something that Dave Rennie’s team selection has made clear.
Despite having several players at the Rugby World Cup, the visitors will have no fewer than nine internationals run out when Callum Gibbons leads out his side for their first bout.
Cheetahs will also be in high spirits after being crowned Currie Cup champions, with the hosts hoping to end their losing streak against Warriors – who have won their last four meetings.
Kick-off: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein | 18:05 (UK) 19:05 (SA), Friday 27 September
How to watch: Live on Premier Sports & DAZN
Players to watch out for: Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors), Ruan Pienaar (Toyota Cheetahs)
Arguably one of the most controversial selection decisions ahead of the Rugby World Cup, Scotland’s loss is Glasgow’s gain as Huw Jones resumes his role at centre in a strong visiting team.
His powerful running game has proved crucial to club and country over the last couple of years and he will be a threat the Cheetahs must look to tame if they are to emerge victorious.
Ruan Pienaar will also be centre of attention for the hosts – albeit for a different reason. The scrum-half will play his first Guinness PRO14 match for the Cheetahs after returning to South Africa from France.
Key stat: Glasgow Warriors’ only defeat in Round One since 2012 was at home to Scarlets in 2015.
Toyota Cheetahs: Rhyno Smith, William Small-Smith, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Dries Swanepoel, Anthony Volmink, Tian Schoeman, Ruan Pienaar, Ox Nche, Joseph Dweba, Erich de Jager, Sintu Manjezi, Walt Steenkamp, Gerhard Olivier, Junior Pokomela, Henco Venter
Replacements: Reinach Venter, Boan Venter, Luan de Bruin, JP du Preez, Sias Koen, Jasper Wiese, Tian Meyer, Louis Fouche
Glasgow Warriors: Glenn Bryce, Kyle Steyn, Nick Grigg, Huw Grigg, Huw Jones, Rory Hughes, Brandon Thomson, Nick Frisby, Oli Kebble, Grant Stewart, D’arcy Rae, Andrew Davidson, Tim Swinson, Rob Harley, Callum Gibbins, Matt Fagerson
Replacements: Johnny Matthews, Alex Allan, Adam Nicol, Bruce Flockhart, Chris Fusaro, Jamie Dobie, Ruaridh Jackson, Robbie Nairn
The Toyota Cheetahs put in a thrilling display of free-flowing rugby as they downed last year’s Guinness PRO14 finalists Glasgow Warriors in Bloemfontein to open up the new campaign.
The first time the competition’s curtain-raiser had taken place in South Africa, the hosts certainly put on a show as they ran in seven tries to send a marker down to the rest of Conference A.
Returning talisman Ruan Pienaar starred, while there were doubles for Rhyno Smith and Joseph Dweba on a special night for the Cheetahs.
The local hero took little time to make his mark, Pienaar was alert to gather a fumble deep in Glasgow ground, crossing for the first try of the Guinness PRO14 season after just six minutes played.
Dweba extended their lead as he took the ball at pace and demonstrated an electric burst of speed that left the visitors chasing dust as he sped to the line.
Glasgow fought back, Nick Frisby chasing a lengthy grubber to reduce arrears, but Dweba added his second from a powerful maul.
The visitors stuck in there, Robbie Nairn bundling over to keep the Warriors in the competition, but once again the Cheetahs responded immediately, Walt Steenkamp popping to Smith to cross under the posts.
They put the matter beyond doubt with 20 minutes to play as Junior Pokomela put the finishing touches to a flowing move before Smith added his second, chasing up Pienaar’s kick.
Sias Koen topped things off when he was on the end of a stunning full-pitch break.
Two tries apiece for Smith and Dweba, but it was the new boy who proved the difference-maker.
Eighteen points and a try to his name, he kicked incisively throughout and was involved in everything good that came from the Cheetahs.
In a match of fast-flowing rugby with points aplenty, there was one score that truly stood out.
Smith was once again at the heart of things as the Cheetahs turned over deep into their own ground, carrying all the way before Koen topped things off.
Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!
General sale tickets are available from http://bit.ly/PRO14Cardiff2020 and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.