Isuzu Southern Kings looseforward Ruaan Lerm and Toyota Cheetahs prop Aranos Coetzee will reach significant career milestones when they take the field in the Guinness PRO14 this weekend, with both players making their 50th appearance for their teams.
Lerm will reach the milestone on Friday when the Isuzu Southern Kings go up against Munster at Irish Independent Park in Cork, while Coetzee strikes his 50 on Saturday when the Toyota Cheetahs meet the undefeated Leinster at the RDS Arena in Dublin.
While the Port Elizabeth side will have their sights set on bouncing back strongly from successive defeats against their countrymen, the Toyota Cheetahs – who are in third place on the Conference A log – face a mammoth task trying to topple the defending champions to maintain a comfortable lead over the trailing sides in their pool with an eye on a possible playoff spot later in the season.
Lerm was delighted about making his 50th appearance for the Isuzu Southern Kings and said: “It is something special for me and something I’ve been looking forward to. When you start playing you look up to the greats and see them getting their 50th and 100th caps, so it is humbling.”
With Munster having scored 62 points more than the Isuzu Southern Kings in their 10 matches so far this season, the visitors will back their attack, but they will have to stand firm on defence after conceding 162 points more the hosts this season.
Toyota Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie, meanwhile, praised Coetzee’s contribution to the team, especially in the set-pieces.
“He is one of the best scrummagers in the competition and that helps us a lot,” said Fourie.
“A lot of teams scrum for penalties and it puts you under pressure if your tighthead is not up to standard. The big thing there for me is Luan (de Bruin) is very close to Aranos. I think in the scrum Aranos is better, but in general play Luan is an exceptional tighthead, so they complement one another.”
The Free Staters will enter the clash as the underdogs given Leinster’s fine form, but Fourie believes his team’s attitude and self-belief will be vital.
“I think it is important to approach every game in the right way,” added Fourie.
“If you have already lost the game in your head before you get out onto the field, then why even travel? Why not stay in Bloemfontein?
“We are going there with the knowledge they are the strongest team, but we know if we pitch up on the day, then we will have a chance to win. And if you don’t think you have a chance, then you might as well not be in this competition.
“We have to play well and apply pressure on them. We can’t think too much about what they are going to do.”
Guinness PRO14 fixtures:
Munster v Isuzu Southern Kings
SA time: 21h35
Date: Friday, 14 February
Venue: Irish Independent Park, Cork
Referee: Nika Amashukeli
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher and Johnny Erskine
TMO: Charles Samson
Leinster v Toyota Cheetahs
SA time: 16h30
Date: Saturday, 15 February
Venue: RDS Arena, Dublin
Referee: Ben Whitehouse
Assistant Referees: Stuart Gaffikin and Gwyn Morris
TMO: Ian Davies