Toyota Cheetahs In Do-Or-Die Battle At Loftus

Photo Credit: Speedshots.co.za

It may be early in the Carling Currie Cup but the pressure on the teams will rise significantly this weekend as the race for favourable log positions intensifies with a little over a month left before the pool stage concludes. The second game of the weekend continues on Saturday with log leaders the Vodacom Bulls hosting the Toyota Cheetahs in Pretoria at 16h30 in what marks the visitors’ opening Carling Currie Cup clash.

While the Vodacom Bulls will be determined to hold onto their lead at top of the log on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld, defending Carling Currie Cup champions, the Toyota Cheetahs, will have their sights set on narrowing the gap between themselves and the top three sides on the log.

The home side may be in fine form with six wins in seven matches since the restart of the season in October, but they will be wary of the Free Staters’, who boast the bragging rights as the only team to topple them so far this season.

Adding to this, the Toyota Cheetahs won the last two Carling Currie Cup matches between the sides in Pretoria, which sets the scene for an entertaining clash.

Vodacom Bulls Director of Rugby, Jake White, made several changes to his squad with Kurt-Lee Arendse and David Kriel switching to fullback and right-wing respectively, while Marco Jansen van Vuren earns his first start on the left-wing.

There is a new halfback pairing as Morné Steyn returns to flyhalf with Embrose Papier manning his inside channel at scrumhalf.

Amongst the forwards, Sintu Manjezi (lock) will start his first match, while the front row sees two changes, both at prop, with Marcel van der Merwe and Gerhard Steenekamp getting a start.

Steenekamp's start at loosehead was down to the one-week ban handed to Jacques van Rooyen after he was shown a red card in their victory over DHL Western Province last weekend.

The bench has seen changes as well, with Jan-Hendrik Wessels (prop) on the brink of making his Vodacom Bulls and Carling Currie Cup debut.

Trevor Nyakane and Ruan Nortje will provide cover at prop and lock respectively.

Former Junior Springbok centre Marnus Potgieter is also set for his competition and team debut as he rounds out the backline replacements alongside Ivan van Zyl and Chris Smith - the starting halfbacks in the Vodacom Bulls' last two matches.

"The Cheetahs are the only team to have beaten us in the last round, so we are truly looking forward to this one,” said White. “I’m also excited about the changes we have made to our team, and I’m keen to see our new combinations.”

In the Toyota Cheetahs camp, Victor Sekekete (flank) will earn his first Carling Currie Cup start for the Free Staters, while George Cronjé (flank), who still played for the SA Schools side last year, is set to make his senior debut if he takes the field.

Carl Wegner will again lead the Free Staters after he was a late captaincy replacement for Junior Pokomela in their last match, with the latter ruled out shortly before their clash against Tafel Lager Griquas due to injury.

Toyota Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie made two injury-enforced changes to his side from their last outing late in November, with Sekekete filling the void left by Springbok Oupa Mohoje and Khutha Mchunu (prop) coming in for Hencus van Wyk.

Coach Hawies Fourie said the following regarding the importance of winning. “The game will determine our fate in the sense of, if we don’t beat them, we won’t be able to finish first on the log. But if we lose against them, we will still have a good chance of finishing in the top four,” he added.

“So it is not a do-or-die game but we and all the other teams in contention would like to finish on top of the log and secure a home final if you get through to one. In that regard, it is a very important game for us.”

Teams:

Vodacom Bulls: 15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14 David Kriel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp. Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marnus Potgieter.

Toyota Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rhyno Smith, 13 Howard Mnisi, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Jeandré Rudolph, 7 Victor Sekekete, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Carl Wegner (captain), 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Khutha Mchunu, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Boan Venter. Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Cameron Dawson, 18 Erich de Jager, 19 Chris Massyn, 20 George Cronjé, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin, 23 William Small-Smith.