The first of three South African derby matches takes place this week as the Toyota Cheetahs and Isuzu Southern Kings and catch up on their Guinness PRO14 schedule.
The South African sides took their summer break in December, meaning their Round 11 & 12 games against each other remain outstanding.
The teams will face off in Port Elizabeth at Madibaz Stadium (SuperSport 1 19:00, eir sport 1 17:00, Free Sports 17:00) with the return game in Bloemfontein slated for February 2 and both sides will be looking to seize a valuable opportunity to reel in other teams in the Guinness PRO14.
The Isuzu Southern Kings (B7) are only six points adrift of Dragons in Conference B, but the bigger carrot will be dangled in front of the Toyota Cheetahs (A6) who need to stitch together back-to-back wins in these derbies to put themselves in the chase for a Final Series position.
“It’s always going to be a big clash because it’s a derby. Every year we play the Kings it’s a big game. The team is ready for the fight, which is why we are preparing to put out our best performance,” said Captain Tian Meyer.
With the European Champions and Challenge Cups playing this weekend, the South African derby is the only Guinness PRO14 action of the week and will be available live in South Africa, the UK and Ireland across SuperSport, Free Sports and eir sport.
The Free Staters are fresh off a morale-boosting 27-12 victory against Zebre Rugby Club in Italy and this is expected to boost their confidence going into the clash.
The Toyota Cheetahs have been superior on attack and defence this season, with the Bloemfontein outfit having scored 36 tries and conceding 44.
The try-scoring machine, Rabz Maxwane, who is the top try-scorer in the competition with eight tries, will be valuable asset for the team on Friday evening.
Coach Franco Smith has announced his team for the derby with no changes to the starting line-up. Scrumhalf, Shaun Venter will be replacing Rudy Paige on the bench.
Nico Lee will be earning his 50th cap for the Toyota Cheetahs. The 24 year old centre represented the Toyota Cheetahs in 14 Super Rugby matches, 11 Currie Cup games (including the Currie Cup final in 2016) and 24 Guinness PRO14 matches and is a proud product of the Toyota Cheetah Academy.
1 Ox Nche (33)
2 Joseph Dweba (12)
3 Aranos Coetzee (33)
4 Justin Basson (22)
5 JP du Preez (10)
6 Gerhard Olivier (11)
7 Junior Pokomela (22)
8 Daniel Maartens (3)
9 Tian Meyer (17) – Captain
10 Tian Schoeman (11)
11 Rabz Maxwane (9)
12 Nico Lee (24)
13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg (11)
14 William Small-Smith (26)
15 Malcolm Jaer (11)
16 Marnus van der Merwe (2) / Reinach Venter (3)
17 Charles Marais (31)
18 Luan de Bruin (3)
19 Sintu Manjezi (4)
20 Walt Steenkamp (10)
21 Abongile Nonkontwana (6)
22 Shaun Venter (26)
23 Louis Fouche (7)
· Guinness PRO14 caps indicated next the player’s name.
The referee for the match is Quinton Immelman (SARU, 16th competition game). He will be assisted by Cwengile Jadezweni and Paul Mente (both SARU). The TMO is Shaun Veldsman (SARU).
The following players are not eligible for team selection due to injury: Oupa Mohoje (knee), Jacques Du Toit (knee), Jamba Ulenga (neck).