Toyota Cheetahs welcome Ulster to Bloemfontein seeking their first win of the Guinness PRO14 campaign against the current leaders of Conference B.
The encounter at Toyota Stadium will kick off at 7.15pm local time on Friday.
What’s at stake
The Cheetahs pushed Conference A leaders Glasgow Warriors for 40 minutes last weekend before their defence fell away in the second half. They will need to tighten up this week as they look to follow up last season’s Final Series spot.
Ulster, meanwhile, were comfortable winners away to the Isuzu Southern Kings having won each of their first two games thanks to last-gasp kicks to go three from three to start the campaign.
Team news (Cheetahs)
The Cheetahs are still trying to cope with a number of injuries, including perhaps most crucially skipper Oupa Mohoje who suffered a long-term knee injury at the start of the campaign. Franco Smith has made two changes to the team that lost to the Warriors, with Ox Nche coming back into the starting line-up in the front row and Niell Jordaan getting the chance at No.8 in place of the injured Aidon Davis.
Jacques du Toit will be playing his 22nd #GuinnessPRO14 game, when @CheetahsRugby take on @UlsterRugby
🗓️ 21 Sept
🏷️Buy your ticket online – https://t.co/AQO8HXYyTd#JacquesDuToit#KnowYourTeam#OrangePride pic.twitter.com/Q2NSXiZ8cA
— Toyota Cheetahs (@CheetahsRugby) September 20, 2018
Team news (Glasgow Warriors)
Ulster have made six changes to the team that beat the Kings last weekend, with academy pair Angus Kernohan and Eric O’Sullivan earning their first starts for the team. Elsewhere Wiehahn Herbst and Matthew Rea come into the pack, while Dave Shanahan gets the nod at scrum-half and Will Addison returns at full-back.
Cheetahs captain Tian Meyer said: “Toyota Stadium is our home ground and pride and we really don’t want to disappoint at home. We want to play the supporters back into the stands.
“We’ve grown a lot since the first match of the season and have a lot of potential. We grow in different aspects of the game. We hope that this time things will come together and that we will put out a good performance on Friday.”
Key battle: Malcolm Jaer v Will Addison
Anyone who watched the Cheetahs’ against Glasgow will have looked on in awe at Malcolm Jaer’s first-half try. The full-back showed off all his pace to finish a magnificent length-of-the-field counter-attack. His second-half yellow card proved costly in the end but Jaer’s threat with ball in hand will be crucial at altitude.
Opposite will be Will Addison, a late withdrawal from the clash with the Kings. The former Sale Sharks man is a versatile three-quarter capable of playing in the centres, on the wing, or in this case, at full-back. Strong under the high ball, and a dangerous running option, the Cheetahs will have to keep a close eye on Addison coming into the line.
IN PICS 📸 | TRAINING IN BLOEMFONTEIN
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) September 20, 2018
Key fact: Ulster regularly make good starts to the Guinness PRO14, having won their first four matches a year ago, and five the previous season. They will look to make it four straight wins this year with a victory in Bloemfontein.
Did you know? The Cheetahs’ first-ever game in the Guinness PRO14 came against Ulster, in a clash at the Kingspan Stadium. That day, Ulster came out comfortably on top in a 42-19 victory.
Toyota Cheetahs: Malcolm Jaer, William Small-Smith, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Nico Lee, Rabz Maxwane, Tian Schoeman, Tian Meyer; Ox Nche, Joseph Dweba, Aranos Coetzee, Walt Steenkamp, JP du Preez, Gerhard Olivier, Junior Pokomela, Niell Jordaan
Replacements: Jacques du Toit, Charles Marais, Gunther Janse van Rensburg, Justin Basson, Stephan Malan, Shaun Venter, Louis Fouche, Ryno Eksteen
Ulster: Will Addison; Craig Gilroy, Henry Speight, Stuart McCloskey, Angus Kernohan; Billy Burns, Dave Shanahan, Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Wiehahn Herbst, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Marcus Rea, Sean Reidy, Marcell Coetzee;
Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Jean Deysel, Nick Timoney, Jonny Stewart, Angus Curtis, Darren Cave.
TV: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, Live on Premier Sports 2 & SuperSport 1
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)
AR1: Sam Grove-White (SRU), AR2: Ben Crouse (SARU)
TMO: Johann Greeffe (SARU)
Henry Speight burrowed over from close-range and Billy Burns held his nerve to slot the last-gasp conversion as Ulster snatched a dramatic draw in South Africa to maintain their unbeaten record and deny Toyota Cheetahs a first win of the Guinness PRO14 season.
After a thrilling, frenetic encounter in which neither defence appeared capable of consistently stopping the opposition, Sibahle Maxwane’s opportunistic try five minutes from time and Louis Fouche’s long-range penalty looked to have given the Cheetahs a hard-fought win.
However, when Ulster pressed forward one last time as the clock seeped into the red, Speight spun his way over the whitewash and Burns added the extras to ensure a memorable 39-39 draw.
WHAT. A. FINISH. 😱@UlsterRugby score in the final minute and @BillyBurns10 converts to give a share of the points after @CheetahsRugby took a late lead – it had it all!#GUINNESSPRO14 #CHEvULS pic.twitter.com/vxO0vGbgsl
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) September 21, 2018
A game in which the lead constantly switched hands had seen Gerhardus Olivier, William Small-Smith, Joseph Dweba and Jacques Du Toit earn the Cheetahs a four-try bonus point just after the hour.
But David Shanahan’s first-half double, Jonny Stewart’s effort and a penalty try put the Ulstermen narrowly ahead before the final five minutes of drama.
The Cheetahs are still winless through four matches but can take heart from a positive attacking performance, while Ulster’s penchant for strong starts to the Guinness PRO14 campaign – they won their first four matches a year ago, and five the previous season – continues.
It took just 80 seconds for the Cheetahs to grab the first try, a well-taken lineout was followed by Nico Lee slicing through the Ulster defence and producing a perfectly-timed pass for flanker Olivier to go over – Tian Schoeman adding the extras.
That 7-0 lead was eradicated within two minutes as the breathless start continued, Darren Cave breaking and offloading to Shanahan for his first try.
And after the Cheetahs had restored their lead with a Schoeman penalty, the Ulster scrum-half touched down for his second score, although the in-form Stuart McCloskey was the architect.
The centre burst through and offloaded superbly to midfield partner Cave who found Shanahan supporting on his shoulder again to coast over and Burns again added the simple conversion.
Ulster booted multiple kickable penalties to the corner in search of try number three but they failed to take advantage and were punished three minutes before the break.
The visiting defence – which missed 12 tackles in the opening 35 minutes – was being sliced apart at will and lightning-fast winger Maxwane skipped through a number of half-hearted tackles, blazed into the Ulster half and drew the last defender before releasing the supporting Small-Smith who trotted in under the posts.
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) September 21, 2018
Schoeman slotted the extras for a 17-14 half-time lead, although Burns brought the visitors level from the tee early in the second period.
But when Alan O’Connor was sent to the sin-bin on 52 minutes after repeated Ulster infringements, the Cheetahs took immediate advantage as Dweba dotted down from the back of an inexorable driving maul.
Another Burns penalty from in front of the sticks brought Ulster within two points but when replacement hooker Du Toit powerfully spun his way over the whitewash from the back of a close-range maul on 64 minutes, the Cheetahs had a bonus point in the bag and appeared to be in control at 29-20.
However, the visitors again turned the game on its head as firstly Stewart darted over from 30 metres after good work from McCloskey and then they earned a penalty try for Charles Marais’ ill-discipline right on the Cheetahs line to lead 32-29 with six minutes left.
But Maxwane then collected Malcolm Jaer’s chip 40 metres out and skipped between two defenders before racing over to put the hosts back in front – a lead extended by Fouche’s 79th-minute penalty from three metres within his own half.
Yet Ulster had the last laugh as Speight spun off the back of a maul right by the line and powered under two tacklers before Burns’ conversion sailed between the posts.
📺| FULL TIME in South Africa and it’s finished in a stalemate after a last gasp try from @UlsterRugby! Billy Burns nailed the conversion under extreme pressure.
A good steal for Ulster as both sides share the points as well as a bonus point each!
— Premier Sports 📺 (@PremierSportsTV) September 21, 2018