The match-up between the Toyota Free State Cheetahs and Vodacom Blue Bulls is expected to be tense as the teams fight for survival in the series. The hosts will enter the clash with confidence following their morale-boosting 52-21 victory against the GWK Griquas last week, while the Blue Bulls are expected to feel the pressure after coming off four back-to-back defeats. But given the fact that the Cheetahs have a five-point lead on the log, the Blue Bulls will be aware that it will take a big performance to sneak into the semifinal.
The scrums are expected to be one of the key areas for the Cheetahs, especially with Springboks Adriaan Strauss and Coenie Oosthuizen reuniting with Trevor Nyakane in a national front row. The Blue Bulls’ backline, meanwhile, has been strengthened by Springbok centres JJ Engelbrecht and Jan Serfontein, which should add a new dimension to their play.
The other changes to the Cheetahs team are at wing where Ryno Benjamin replaces Piet Lindeque and in the loose trio where Philip van der Walt slots in at No8 at the expense of Teboho Mohoje. The only other change to the Blue Bulls starting team is in the loose trio where Jacques Engelbrecht earns a start alongside Jono Ross and Jacques du Plessis, which allows Wiaan Liebenberg to lead their Under-21 team.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs: Hennie Daniller; Ryno Benjamin, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Rhule; Elgar Watts, Sarel Pretorius; Philip van der Walt, Pieter Labuschagne, Boom Prinsloo; Lood de Jager, Francois Uys; Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss (capt), Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements: AJ le Roux, Schalk van der Merwe, Teboho Mohoje, Freddy Ngoza, Piet van Zyl, Piet Lindeque, Willie du Plessis.
Vodacom Blue Bulls: Jurgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Handre Pollard, Rudy Paige, Jacques Engelbrecht, Jacques du Plessis, Jono Ross (capt), David Bulbring, Paul Willemse, Frik Kirsten, Bongi Mbonambi, Marcel van der Merwe. Replacements: Bandise Maku, Werner Kruger, Grant Hattingh, Jean Cook, Lohan Jacobs, Francois Venter, Clayton Blommetjies.
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistant Referees: Quinton Immelman, Francois de Bruin
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee with Nic van Stryp in training