With both sides coming off a (very rare) win on the same day last Saturday a fortnight ago, sparks are set to fly when speedsters Rabz Maxwane and Yaw Penxe turn up the heat in Saturday’s Pro14 derby between the Cheetahs and Southern Kings in Bloemfontein.
This is especially so considering a nail-biting finish between them a fortnight ago, and exciting victories last weekend where the Cheetahs scored nine tries and the Kings beat Edinburg with a 70 meters try, set-up and scored by their backs Meli Rokoua and Penxe in the last seconds.
What’s more, the Cheetahs know that another win will move them closer to the play-off zone.
One of the main battles is expected to be between Cheetahs flyer Maxwane, who is in first position on the top-try scorer’s list with 10, and the Southern Kings’ Penxe, whose match-winning try against Edinburgh increased his tally to six.
Penxe’s team-mate Bjorn Basson and the Cheetahs’ Shaun Venter are hot on their heels with five tries each, which could also make them marked men, while the battle between the teams’ star goal kickers, Masixole Banda (Southern Kings) and Tian Schoeman (Cheetahs), who are among the top eight points’ scorers this season, is also expected to be exciting.
The last time the two teams met, the scores were tied on 17-17 when they entered the last 10 minutes of their derby in Port Elizabeth, and it took a try in injury time by the Cheetahs to seal the win.
The Free Staters are on a hot-streak of three successive wins, which has nudged them within seven log points of Ospreys and Connacht, who are in third and fourth place respectively on the Conference A log. They are five behind the Cardiff Blues and have a match in hand on Saturday, with none of the other sides playing.
These rewarding results have bumped them into a position to possibly play their way into the quarter-final for the second season in a row, as the top three teams in each of the two conferences will make it through.
Conference A leaders, Munster and the Glasgow Warriors, have a 17 and 15 point advantage respectively on the table, but with eight pool matches remaining for the South African teams (including Saturday’s match) the Cheetahs will have all the motivation they need to continue powering their way up the standings.
The Free Staters will enter the match with a flawless win record against their Eastern Cape counterparts – which currently stands at played four, won four – but after having to dig deep in the dying minutes at the Madibaz Stadium two weeks ago to sneak through for a win, they will not underestimate Deon Davids’ charges.
The fact that the Southern Kings’ 25-21 victory against Edinburgh last week was preceded by an encouraging stretch in which they suffered four defeats by seven points or less in their previous five matches, is another reason the Cheetahs will be wary of them.
Should the Cheetahs register a victory, it will mark the first time they win four in a row in the PRO14 since joining the competition in the 2017/18 season.
15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Rabs Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Shaun Venter (captain), 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Junior Pokomela 6 Abongile Nonkontwana, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche. Replacements: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Niell Jordaan, 22 Rudy Paige, 23 Ernst Stapelberg
15 Masixole Banda, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Meli Rokoua 12 Tertius Kruger, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Ntabeni Dukisa, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Tienie Burger, 6 Cyril-John Velleman, 5 JC Astle (captain), 4 Andries van Schalkwyk, 3 Luvuyo Pupuma, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Schalk Ferreira. Replacements: 16 Alandré van Rooyen, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 De-Jay Terblanche, 19 Stephan Greeff, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Bader Pretorius, 23 Berton Klaasen.
Venue: Free State Stadium
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman and AJ Jacobs
TMO: Marius Jonker