Preview: Cheetahs v Kings
The high-riding Cheetahs host tournament newcomers the Kings in what promises to be an entertaining clash in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The Cheetahs are riding the crest of a wave after winning six of their last seven matches. In each of 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2006, their debut season, they won five matches.
They are currently in sixth position in the standings and their coach, Naka Drotské, emphasised that this clash's importance if they want to seal a place in the tournament's knockout stages.
“This is a very important match if we want to make the play-offs,” he said.
“The Kings have been the biggest surprise in the competition this year. They showed what they can do when they drew with the Brumbies, who top the overall log, in Canberra. "
Cheetahs prop Coenie Oosthuizen made his return to the run-on side against the Sharks last weekend and did in his side's 12-6 victory. He makes his 50th Super Rugby appearance for the home side and will look to continue where he left off against the Sharks.
Another player to keep an eye on is right wing Willie le Roux who has been one of the Cheetahs' best players this season. A dangerous attacker, especially from broken play, Le Roux can tear any defence to shreds if he is given too much space.
The Kings impressed in their debut season and proven that they belong at this level. A highlight of their play has been their defence. They did, however, concede 34 points, and fail to score any themselves, in their defeat to the Bulls last weekend.
The men from Port Elizabeth have punched above their weight since the start of the competition but will have to improve on attack as this is an area of their play which they have failed to make an impression in.
Regular Kings skipper Luke Watson has been relegated to the replacements bench after a poor performance in his comeback against the Bulls last weekend.
This means that the Strauss cousins Adriaan, of the Cheetahs, and Andries, of the Kings, will captain their respective sides. The Kings' fly-half Demetri Catrakilis' has impressed with his accurate goal-kicking but needs to get his outside backs firing if they want to trouble their hosts.
Super head-to-head: Cheetahs flanker Lappies Labuschagne and Kings counterpart Wimpie van der Walt have been two of South Africa's outstanding back-rowers in the tournament this season. Both are good ball carries and excellent defenders which should make their battle an outstanding feature of this match.
Prediction: The Kings will try to prove that last weekend's hammering against the Bulls will not be repeated again. However, this Cheetahs team have proven that they have the abiliy to beat any side in the competition and shouldn't have to much problems against the boys from Port Elizabeth. Cheetahs to win by 12 points!
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (capt), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Rynhard Landman, 19 Frans Viljoen, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Kings: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Siyanda Grey, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Andries Strauss (c), 11 Michael Killian, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 Rynier Bernado, 4 Steve Sykes, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 Grant Kemp, 18 David Bulbring, 19 Luke Watson, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Siviwe Soyizwapi.
Date: Saturday, April 27
Kick-off: 19:10 local (18:10 BST, 17:10 GMT)
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa),Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)
Television match official: Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)