With time running out to make it into playoff contention, the Toyota Cheetahs will feel the heat on Sunday when they line up against the Scarlets in a crucial Guinness PRO14 match in Wales.
The Toyota Cheetahs, with only six games left to work their way into the top three in Conference A for a possible playoff spot, and Scarlets are among the 11 teams in the gripping race for playoff places – although the Scarlets are in a different conference – meaning neither team will give an inch in what is expected to be a nail-biting clash in Llanelli.
In stark contrast to the Toyota Cheetahs, who suffered their first defeat after a five-match winning run last week, the Scarlets have battled to find their rhythm, which has seen them register only one victory in their last six matches. But the Welshmen will draw inspiration from the fact that they have suffered only one defeat at home this season.
The sides will enter the match equal on log points (36) with the Scarlets boasting seven victories to the Toyota Cheetahs’ six, but while the visitors have been more effective on attack with 57 tries to the home side’s 45, the Scarlets will rely on their solid defence to keep the visitors at bay after conceding 18 fewer tries in their 15 matches.
With a number of top performers in the competition in the Toyota Cheetahs’ team, including try-scoring machine Rabz Maxwane (most tries in the competition) and Junior Pokomela (most lineout steals), the visitors have the manpower to return to their winning ways.
The Isuzu Southern Kings, meanwhile, take on Irish powerhouse and defending champions Leinster in Dublin on Friday, in a top-versus-bottom Conference B clash.
While the hosts will look to capitalise on this match to strengthen their position at the top of conference, the visitors will be determined to bounce back from their 43-0 defeat against Munster.
Coach Deon Davids’ men will have their work cut out as Leinster have been the pace-setters in the competition with 13 victories in 15 matches, while they also boast the best attack and defensive statistics. The side has scored an impressive 73 tries in their 15 matches, while only Ospreys have matched their solid defence this season.
The teams have met three times in the competition to date, with Leinster emerging victorious in all of those matches, but the Isuzu Southern Kings have tested a number of top sides, which will inspire them going into the clash.
In fact, in their last encounter in November, Leinster had to work hard for their 38-31 victory against the Isuzu Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth, which they will be mindful of going into the clash.
Leinster v Isuzu Southern Kings
Date: Friday, 22 February
SA time: 21h55
Venue: RDS Arena, Dublin
Referee: Sam Grove-White (SRU)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (IRFU) and Ian Kenny (SRU)
TMO: Colin Stanley (IRFU)
Scarlets v Toyota Cheetahs
Date: Sunday, 24 February
SA time: 15h00
Venue: Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (WRU) and Chris Busby (IRFU)
TMO: John Mason (WRU)
Other Round 16 matches (SA kick-off times):
Friday, 22 February:
21h35: Glasgow Warriors v Connacht – Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow
21h35: Ospreys v Munster – Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Saturday, 23 February:
15h00: Benetton v Dragons – Stadio Monigo, Treviso
21h35: Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues – BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh
21h35: Ulster v Zebre – Kingspan Stadium, Belfast