Preview: Kings v Cheetahs
The Cheetahs will go to Port Elizabeth to face the Kings on Friday in what is going to be the final Super Rugby game for both sides.
It was confirmed last week that both teams will be axed from the competition, and recent reports have suggested that the two franchises are headed for the PRO12 in Europe.
But, on Friday, they will both want to go out with a bang. Smart money will on the Kings, who will want to end an impressive campaign on a high note. Deon Davids’ men have already claimed victories against the Sharks, Bulls, and Waratahs, and many see a win against a low-on-confidence Cheetahs side as a formality.
Last weekend’s win over the Bulls in Pretoria will no doubt have given the Kings an extra spring in their step, and while there is the possibility that the franchise will be playing in the northern hemisphere next year, a lot of their players will be out to impress potential suitors.
The Bloemfontein side, who have had a dismal campaign, last tasted victory on the final weekend ahead of the November Tests, when they skinned the Sunwolves 47-7 in Tokyo. They showed much improvement in their last game as they ran a fancied Stormers side close, and eventually lost 34-40 in front of their fans in Bloemfontein.
Both sides have shown in the past that they can play expansive, running rugby, so the clash at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium could be a try-fest as both sides throw caution to the wind to ensure that the fans leave the game well entertained.
The last time the teams met: The Cheetahs ran riot in Bloemfontein last year, walking away with a convincing 34-20 victory which saw them score four tries to the Kings’ two. Former Sharks pivot Fred Zeilinga was particularly impressive on the day, ending the game with a 100 percent kicking record as he converted all of their tries, and slotted a further two penalties. That game was a long time ago, however, and the Kings have shown a lot of improvement since then.
Players to watch:
For Kings: Makazole Mapimpi has been a revelation this season for the men from Port Elizabeth, and he was unlucky to miss out on Springbok selection for last month’s Tests. The 26-year-old, who coincidentally will be joining the Cheetahs for the upcoming Currie Cup, has everything needed to succeed as a top player. Mapimpi, with 10 tries, is joint fourth on the list of leading try scorers this season, and has also scored one more than new Bok favourite Courtnall Skosan.
For Cheetahs: It’s only a matter of time before 21-year-old Ox Nche becomes the leading loosehead prop in the country. South African rugby has always produced strong loosehead props such as Os du Randt and Beast Mtawarira, and the young Ox looks to be a continuation of that tradition. He’s pretty dangerous with ball in hand too, and if he can get the ball with space to run on Friday, the Kings will need to commit a few players to stop him from gaining any ground.
Team news: Davids has made only one change to the team that beat the Bulls at Loftus last week. Lock Wilhelm van der Sluys, who missed last week’s game due to concussion makes a return into the side, with Irne Herbst returning to the bench, and Giant Mtyanda moving to the number four jersey
Cheetahs coach Franco Smith has had to make a number of forced changes with Sergeal Petersen unavailable through injury, and Henco Venter serving a suspension after being shown the red card in their game against the Stormers. Carl Wegner returns to the second row, while Armand Koster drops down to the bench. Loose forward Uzair Cassiem moves to the openside of the scrum, with Oupa Mohoje back in the number seven jersey. Zeilinga returns to the team and will start at fly-half Niel Marais taking his place among the substitutes. William Small-Smith will take Petersen’s place on the wing, and Junior Pokomela will be on the bench.
Form: The Kings have been the better of the two teams recently, and will be looking to end the campaign on a high note. That this is both teams’ Super Rugby swansong will mean that the form book could be thrown out, and the sides will hopefully give the fans a spectacle to watch.
The Kings have won three of their last five games, and wins against the Sharks and Bulls will give them the belief that they need to get one over the Cheetahs. Smith’s men on the other hand, have won just once in their last five games, but they’ve been involved in some real humdingers, and have shown that they can score bucket loads of tries.
Prediction: The home team to win a try fest. Kings by 10.
2016: Cheetahs won 34-20 in Bloemfontein
2015: Cheetahs won 34-22 in Port Elizabeth
2013: Cheetahs won 26-12 in Bloemfontein
Kings: 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronje (c), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Mzamo Majola
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Irne Herbst/Mzwanele Zito, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Rudi van Rooyen, 22 Masixole Banda, 23 Waylon Murray/Yaw Penxe
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Elandre Huggett, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Armandt Koster, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Chris Dry, 22 Ruan van Rensburg, 23 Niel Marais
Date: Friday, July 14
Venue: Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 19:00 local (17:00 GMT)
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant Referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
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