The Isuzu Southern Kings and Toyota Cheetahs will both have a point to prove when in their second Guinness PRO14 season, which kicks off this weekend with the first of 21 pool rounds, with matches taking place in three countries.
While the Eastern Cape side will be determined to improve on their debut season, in which they delivered quality performances but fell short on the scoreboard in all but of one of their matches, the Toyota Cheetahs will have their sights set on progressing to the semi-final after going down in the qualifier last season.
The Isuzu Southern Kings will kick off their campaign against Italy’s Zebre Rugby Club at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in Parma on Friday evening at 20h35, while the Toyota Cheetahs will meet Irish powerhouse Munster in Limerick at 18h15 on Saturday.
In Italy, the Isuzu Southern Kings will be expecting a tough challenge from Zebre Rugby Club, who apart from finishing strongly last season with three successive victories, defeated them 43-17 in Port Elizabeth. With a new sponsor in Isuzu, and the team well aware of what to expect in the competition this season, they take to the field highly motivated.
The clash between the Toyota Cheetahs and 2017/18 semi-finalists, Munster, is expected to be gripping, especially with two former Springbok assistant coaches at the helm, in Franco Smith and Johann van Graan respectively.
The fact that the Irish outfit includes a number South African squad members, such as Arno Botha, Jaco Taute, CJ Stander and Chris Cloete, is expected to spice up the clash.
The Free Staters will draw inspiration from their heart-breaking 19-17 defeat against Munster in their last outing in Bloemfontein in April. However, they will be under no illusions about the challenge that awaits as Munster have only suffered one defeat at home since February 2017, while they also registered a convincing 51-18 victory against the Toyota Cheetahs at Thomond Park last year.
Guinness PRO14 Round 1 fixtures:
Isuzu Southern Kings v Zebre Rugby Club. Date: Friday, 31 August at SA time: 20h35. Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma. Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU). Assistant referees: Keith Allen (SRU), Manuel Bottini (FIR). TMO: Stefano Penne (FIR). TV: SuperSport 1
Isuzu Southern Kings touring squad:
Forwards: Tango Balekile, Schalk Ferreira, Justin Forwood, Lupumlo Mguca, Xandre Vos, Alandre van Rooyen, Mike Willemse, Luvuyo Pupuma, Schalk Oelofse, JC Astle, Bobby de Wee, Henry Brandon Brown, Stephan de Wit, Martinus Burger, Ruaan Lerm, Andisa Ntsila.
Backs: Masixole Banda, Bjorn Basson, Ulrich Beyers, Michael Botha, Berton, Martin du Toit, Klaasen, Harlon Klaasen, Michael Makase, Godlen Masimla, Yaw Penxe, Rudi van Rooyen.
Toyota Cheetahs v Munster: Date: Saturday, 1 September at SA time: 18h15. Venue: Thomond Park, Limerick. Referee: Dan Jones (WRU). Assistant referees: Craig Evans (WRU), Mark Patton (IRFU). TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU). TV: SuperSport 1
Toyota Cheetahs touring squad:
Forwards: Ox Nche, Erich de Jager, Charles Marais, Joseph Dweba, Jacques du Toit, Marnus van der Merwe, Luan de Bruin, Aranos Coetzee, Justin Basson, JP du Preez, Walt Steenkamp, Junior Pokomela, Oupa Mohoje.
Backs: Aidon Davis, Jasper Wiese, Shaun Venter, Tian Meyer, Ruben de Haas, Tian Schoeman, Ernst Stapelberg, William Small-Smith, Nico Lee, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Rabz Maxwane, Malcolm Jaer, Ryno Eksteen
Other Round 1 action (SA kick-off times):
Friday, 31 August:
20h35: Cardiff Blues v Leinster Rugby – Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff
20h35: Ospreys Rugby v Edinburgh Rugby – Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Saturday, 1 September:
16h00: Connacht Rugby v Glasgow Warriors – The Sportsground, Galway
18h15: Ulster Rugby v Scarlets – Kingspan Stadium, Belfast
20h35: Dragons v Benetton Rugby – Rodney Parade, Newport
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