The Toyota Cheetahs and Isuzu Southern Kings are gearing up for “their toughest challenge this year” as they face up to the dual Irish sides Ulster and Munster in a mouth-watering weekend of action in PRO14 Rugby this weekend.
The Cheetahs take on Ulster on Saturday and will want to continue on their impressive victory over the Glasgow Warriors while the Kings narrowly went down to Cardiff Blues as they continue their resurgence under the new coaching staff.
Cheetahs coach Franco Smith believes that Ulster will be their “toughest test this year” and says the Irish side will be ready after watching their game against Glasgow last week.
“We want to keep on and get better. We agreed after the review of the Glasgow game that there was some excellent moments. In the last seven or eight games we had some 10 out of 10 moments but in general there are still some things we have to work on. It is important for us to kick on from what happened last week, but we are not naïve,” Smith said.
“We might have caught Glasgow on an off-day. We are playing better and better every week but they would know that. Ulster will come here after what they saw last week and knowing that we won the Currie Cup, they will come here to prove us wrong.
“Last year we drew here so I think they would love to get one over us in that regard. I believe and said it to the team in so many words, that this will be the toughest challenge this year.”
The Cheetahs dominance over Glasgow in the opening round would have raised eyebrows but the Bloemfontein side is settling in nicely to their attacking structure that brought success in the Currie Cup and now it is about finishing off the chances they create.
“We did finish some good tries and some of those we wouldn’t have finished last season. We create so many opportunities and it will be great if we can convert everything. There was still points we could have scored out there,” Smith explains.
“The main thing is that we need to understand that we create a lot of opportunities and as soon as the players understand that the system is creating opportunities, we need to just work to convert them. It is not about the what anymore, but about the how. That is where the team’s growth has moved into now. We all understand what we want to do, it is the how we do it that is important.”
Kings midfielder Sibusiso Sithole believes the Port Elizabeth side can meet the expectations of their fans when they host Munster this weekend.
“We can definitely achieve a lot. In the past we have been written off. This season we are not too worried about people writing us off, it is more about our own processes and what we can do to become a better team together,” Sithole said.
“Everyone can expect a lot from us, a lot of great things – and the way we played on Saturday you can definitely see there is a lot of flair and excitement coming through. It is all about that all coming together and playing a full 80.”
While they led for 67 minutes against Cardiff before the Welsh side took the game in the dying minutes, the Kings will be looking to improve their own game without pressure this weekend against Munster.
“We go out there and play our hearts out. The result is sometimes in our hands and sometimes not. For us the main purpose is not to chase every win, but to become better week in and out and I thought we were disappointed after the Blues game, because we knew we could have done to win it, but there are a lot of good things we can take out of the game.
“There is no pressure. We have a fairly mixed side with a lot of youngsters and experience mixed in. The senior players have settled the youngsters down. This is the first game of the season and even though the result didn’t go our way, we can’t really predict our season from the first game.”
Sithole said he was expecting Munster to come hard at them this weekend.
“After this weekend’s game they played well. We are expecting them to come hard down here and they have a lot of SA coaches so we are expecting them to come hard at us up front. We are expecting a mixed bag coming from them and a lot of line speed on defence. We aren’t too focused on them though, we want to make sure that from last week to this week anything we did right we want to continue with and anything we need to fix we do.”
The games kick off at 4pm in Port Elizabeth for the Kings-Munster match, while the Cheetahs face Ulster at 6.15pm in a double header. All games will be live on Supersport.
Isuzu Southern Kings v Munster Rugby
Isuzu Southern Kings: Masixole Banda, Andell Loubser, Tertius Kruger, John-Thomas Jackson, Courtney Winnaar, Demetri Catrakilis, Stefan Ungerer; Juan Schoeman, Alandre van Rooyen, Pieter Scholtz, Jerry Sexton, Aston Fortuin, Lusanda Badiyana (CAPT), Martinus Burger, Ruaan Lerm.
Replacements: Jacques du Toit, Alulutho Tshakweni, Rossouw de Klerk, Bobby de Wee, Elrigh Louw, Josh Allderman, Sibusiso Sithole, Josiah Twum-Boafo.
Munster: Mike Haley; Darren Sweetnam, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Shane Daly; JJ Hanrahan, Alby Mathewson; Liam O’Connor, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer; Darren O’Shea, Fineen Wycherley; Jack O’Donoghue, Tommy O’Donnell (CAPT), Arno Botha.
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, James Cronin, Jeremy Loughman, Jed Holloway, Billy Holland, Neil Cronin, Tyler Bleyendaal, Chris Cloete.
Toyota Cheetahs v Ulster Rugby
Toyota Cheetahs: Rhyno Smith, William Small-Smith, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Dries Swanepoel, Anthony Volmink, Tian Schoeman, Ruan Pienaar (CAPT); Ox Nche, Jospeh Dweba, Erich de Jager, Sintu Manjexi, Walt Steenkamp, Gerhard Olivier, Junior Pokomela, Henco Venter.
Replacements: Reinach Venter, Boan Venter, Neethling Fouche, JP du Preez, Sias Koen, Jasper Wiese, Tian Meyer, Louis Fouche.
Ulster: Matt Faddes, Craig Gilroy, Luke Marshall, James Hume, Rob Lyttle; Bill Johnston, John Cooney; Jack McGrath, Rob Herring (Capt), Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Sam Carter, Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Greg Jones.
Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Ross Kane, Alan O’Connor, Clive Ross, David Shanahan, Michael Lowry, Louis Ludik