Cape Town – The Cheetahs and Southern Kings will face a tough test in the PRO14 this weekend as they line up against defending champions, Leinster, and the Cardiff Blues in Ireland and Wales respectively in their penultimate tour matches.
Leinster have been in sublime form this season with 14 victories in 16 pool matches, and 11 bonus points for tries, and they will look to continue this form against the Cheetahs, who need to return to their winning ways to remain within striking range of their rivals for a PRO14 playoff spot. The sides meet in Dublin on Friday.
The Cheetahs will have to be sharp on attack and defence from the outset, as Leinster are the only team to have scored more than 500 points this season, while they conceded 207 points – only seven more than Munster, who boast the best defensive record in the competition.
With five pool games remaining – including this match – for the Cheetahs to force their way into the top three in Conference A for a playoff spot, and the team already trailing their pool contenders, the Cardiff Blues and Munster, by six points, they will enter the clash under pressure to register a victory to avoid slipping too far behind as the pool stages draw to a close.
Leinster will be wary of the Cheetahs, who have Rabs Maxwane and Shaun Venter among the top try scorers in the competition, and Tian Schoeman fifth on the list of top points scorers.
The teams have crossed paths only once before in the competition in 2017, with the Cheetahs winning that encounter 38-19 in Bloemfontein.
The Southern Kings take on the Cardiff Blues at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday, and with the hosts facing immense pressure from Connacht, Ospreys and the Cheetahs for a playoff spot in Conference A, they will target a bonus-point victory in front of their home crowd.
It will be a big challenge for the Southern Kings, as the Cardiff Blues have been more effective on attack and defence this season. The men from Port Elizabeth, however, will draw inspiration from the fact that the hosts have only scored two more tries than them this season.
That said, they will have to maintain their composure on defence as the Cardiff Blues have conceded half the number of tries in the last 16 matches. The Welshmen have been in solid form at home this season, where they suffered only one defeat by four points, which is a track-record they will be determined to keep intact.
That said, Deon Davids’ charges have challenged a number of teams at home and on tour thanks to their skilful attack and impressive finishing, and with speedsters Yaw Penxe and Bjorn Basson (who are among the top try scorers) and Masixole Banda (who is the fourth highest points scorer in the competition) in their ranks, the Cardiff Blues will not expect a walk in the park.
The Cardiff Blues won the previous and only encounter between the sides in Port Elizabeth 45-12 in April 2018.
Leinster v Cheetahs:
Date: Friday, March 1
SA time: 21:35
Venue: RDS Arena, Dublin
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (IRFU) and Wayne Davies (WRU)
TMO: Colin Stanley (IRFU)
Cardiff Blues v Kings:
Date: Saturday, March 2
SA time: 21:35
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff
Referee: Joy Neville (IRFU)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (WRU) Mark Patton (IRFU)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)
Other Round 17 matches (SA kick-off times):
Saturday, March 2:
16:45: Connacht v Ospreys – The Sportsground, Galway
17:00: Benetton v Edinburgh – Stadio Monigo, Treviso
19:00: Scarlets v Munster – Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli
19:15: Zebre v Glasgow Warriors – Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
Sunday, March 3:
17:00: Dragons v Ulster – Rodney Parade, Newport