Cheetahs v Sharks preview

Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein, 17.00 (15.00 GMT)

The last game of the weekend sees Super 14 action head to the grassy plateaux of the South African hinterland, where the only local derby of the weekend takes place between the Sharks and the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

The Cheetahs are looking for some fresh momentum to a campaign which started off so promisingly and has faded somewhat since a loss to the Crusaders and a draw with the Chiefs.

But they don’t have it any easier when Rassie Erasmus’s charges host the undefeated Sharks.

The Sharks have been stunted in their victories however, seemingly struggling with the intense summer humidity of Durban, and they could unleash their full game on Saturday. The team has a very settled look, and the loss of Percy Montgomery is not such a big issue if you have Francois Steyn to replace him.

Their pack is measured and strong, and their backs are beginning to look like the force they were last year on attack.

The Cheetahs meanwhile have shuffled their backline. The dangerous Philip Burger comes back to the wing, while the in-form Tiger Mangweni retains his place at fullback. The big change is the new centre combination, where Herkie Kruger returns in the guise of a 12, while the full-of-running Ronnie Cooke shifts to outside centre.

This is an exciting backline for the Cheetahs and contains some further balance than previous weeks.

The Sharks will have to go out there and dominate, because the home side will no doubt be incredibly hungry for a win, and they will be hoping that their centre combination can fire – Brad Barritt and Waylon Murray have been playing in the same Durban representative sides for years, and it is a matter of time before they click into action.

Prediction: It is going to be a cracker and it is tough to call, but we have to go with the Sharks, who may just be packing that touch more firepower. It’s the Sharks by less than ten.

Teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Tiger Mangweni, 14 Philip Burger, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Herkie Kruger, 11 Eddie Fredericks, 10 Willem de Waal, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Ryno van der Merwe, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Henro Scholtz, 5 Corniel van Zyl, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Richard Strauss, 1 Os du Randt.
Replacements: 16 Ollie le Roux, 17 Wiaan du Preez, 18 Dwayne Vermeulen, 19 Kabamba Floors, 20 Falie Oelschig, 21 Alwyn Hollenbach, 22 Gavin Passens

Sharks: 15 Francois Steyn, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Bradley Barritt, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Butch James, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 AJ Venter , 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Johan Ackermann, 3 BJ Botha, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Deon Carstens.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Warren Britz, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Adrian Jacobs

Referee: JC Fortuin (South Africa)
Touch judges: Phillip Bosch (South Africa), Pro Legoete (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Assessor: Tappe Henning (South Africa), Brendan McCormick (Australia)

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