The Toyota Cheetahs and Isuzu Southern Kings will target fresh starts at home in the Guinness PRO14 this weekend as they look to recover from slow starts to the tournament in Europe.
Both sides will go in search of their first victories against teams who come off back-to-back wins in what marks the first round of local matches, with the Toyota Cheetahs taking on the Glasgow Warriors in Bloemfontein on Saturday, while the Isuzu Southern Kings host Ulster in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
The Free Staters will take to the field first against a Glasgow Warriors outfit high on confidence after wins against Connacht and Munster, and bolstered by the fact that they registered home and away wins against the Toyota Cheetahs last season.
The Cheetahs’ defeat in Bloemfontein last year, however, marked one of only two home losses, and they will be inspired by the fact that it was by only three points.
Franco Smith’s charges, however, will have their work cut out to register a victory, as the visitors – who have former DHL Stormers prop Oli Kebble in their ranks – have been superior on attack and defence this season, with 52 points scored and 36 conceded, while the Cheetahs have scored only 14 points and conceded 84.
In Port Elizabeth, the Isuzu Southern Kings will look to build on their encouraging performance last week against the Dragons – in which they went down by only five points – when they take on Ulster.
Coach Deon Davids’ men lost both matches against the Irishmen in their debut season last year, but with only seven points separating them on the scoreboard in their first encounter in the Eastern Cape, the Isuzu Southern Kings will be determined to emerge victorious this time around.
Interestingly the men from Port Elizabeth have scored more tries than Ulster – whose squad includes former Springbok Marcell Coetzee, Wiehahn Herbst and Jean Deysel – but they have also conceded more tries, meaning that they will have to tighten up their defence to come away with a win.
Guinness PRO14 Round 3 fixtures:
Toyota Cheetahs v Glasgow Warriors
Date: Saturday, 15 September
SA time: 19h30
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Frank Murphy
Assistant referees: Andy Brace (IRFU), Cwengile Jadezweni (SARU)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (SARU)
Isuzu Southern Kings v Ulster
Date: Sunday, 16 September
SA time: 14h15
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Referee: Sam Grove-White (SRU)
Assistant referees: Ben Whitehouse (WRU), Ruhan Meiring (SARU)
TMO: Johan Greeffe (SARU)
Other Round 3 action (SA kick-off times):
Friday, 14 September:
20h35: Munster v Ospreys – Irish Independent Park, Cork
20h35: Edinburgh v Connacht – BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Saturday, 15 September:
18h15: Leinster v Dragons – RDS Arena, Dublin
18h15: Scarlets v Benetton Rugby – Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli
20h35: Zebre Rugby Club v Cardiff Blues – Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma