Preview: Cheetahs v Kings
Free State Cheetahs play host to the EP Kings for the first of two play-off games to decide whether they will remain in the Currie Cup premier division or be relegated to the first division.
The Bloemfontein-based side had one of their most successful Super Rugby seasons this year, but they have struggled to reproduce the same form in the Currie Cup.
Winning only three of their 10 encounters, relegation beckons if the Free State side cannot produce the goods agains the Kings in Bloemfontein on Friday.
Coach Naka Drotske has chosen his strongest available team for their crucial clash.
However the hosts will need to make do without one of their stalwarts, prop Coenie Oosthuizen, who picked up a lower back injury in the Free State side's loss to Western Province last week.
"It is regretable that Coenie isn't available," said Drotske.
"His loss is a big one, especially for the Springboks and the end-of-year tour.
"We would have looked to him to give the scrums substance, but now he is unavailable.
"We have to face problems like these and keep looking forward."
Meanwhile, the EP Kings have made four changes to the team that started in the First Division final when they narrowly beat the Pumas 26-25.
Former Bulls and Tuks pivot Wesley Dunlop rotates with George Whitehead and will wear the number 10 jersey as the latter drops to the bench. Another switch in the backline sees inside centre Shane Gates come in for the rested Tiger Mangweni.
There are two injury-forced changes among the forwards. Lock David Bullbring and loosehead prop Jaco Engels fill in for Darron Nell and Schalk Ferreira respectively.
Outside centre Wayne Stevens takes over the captaincy during Nell and flank Luke Watson’s injury absence.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschange, 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Izak van der Merwe, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Davon Ruabenheimer, 20 Tewis du Bruyn, 21 Phillip Snyman, 22 Rayno Benjamin.
EP Kings: 15 SP Marais, 14 Paul Perez, 13 Wayne Stevens (c), 12 Shane Gates, 11 Marcello Sampson, 10 Wesley Dunlop, 9 Falie Oelschig, 8 Cornell Du Preez, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Devin Oosthuizen, 5 David Bullbring, 4 Reynier Bernardo, 3 Clint Newland, 2 Hannes Franklin, 1 Jaco Engels.
Replacements: 16 Frank Herne, 17 Andre Schlechter, 18 Wayne van Heerden, 19 Mpho Mbiyozo, 20 Scott Mathie, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Michael Killian.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan