Preview: Cheetahs v Brumbies


The Brumbies will be determined to return to their winning ways when they take on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

After being the early pacesetters in the competition, Stephen Larkham's charges are licking their wounds following a 31-11 defeat to the Stormers in Cape Town last weekend.

That was their first defeat of their campaign and they will be keen to put that result to bed with a clinical victory over the Cheetahs, who they have beaten on six occasions in the last seven matches between these sides.

Despite that loss to the Stormers, the Brumbies are still at the top of the Australian Conference, albeit alongside the Rebels. Both sides have 13 points from four matches but the Brumbies have a superior points difference.

Although the men from Canberra have posted 40 or more points in two of those matches, the Cheetahs have been more competitive in recent seasons with three of the last four matches decided by single figures and they also secured a deserved 47-36 victory in Bloemfontein in 2011.

The Cheetahs are yet to deliver a convincing performance this season. Their only victory of the season was a narrow one by a one-point margin against the Sunwolves in Singapore in Round Three.

They clinched that victory after fighting back from a 20-point deficit early in the second half and apart from a losing bonus-point in their opener against the Jaguares, they have nothing to show from their other fixtures.

The last time these teams met: The Brumbies outscored the Cheetahs two tries to none when these sides met in Round Eight of the 2015 tournament in Canberra. The home side led 13-3 at the interval after Christian Leali'ifano scored an early try, with the Cheetahs' only points coming via a Joe Pietersen penalty. The Brumbies sealed victory in the second half when Blake Enever barged over from short range for his first ever Super Rugby try. Leali'ifano finished with a 15-point haul as he also kicked two conversions and two penalties. 

Players to watch: Cheetahs lock Lood de Jager was crowned South Africa's Player of the Year after coming to the fore with several impressive performances at last year's Rugby World Cup in England. De Jager is the prototype of the modern-day lock with the speed and agility of a back but he doesn't shy from doing his core duties and will be at the forefront of the Cheetahs' forward effort in this match.

Brumbies stalwart David Pocock will be keen to impress after a subdued display against the Stormers last weekend. Pocock's prowess at the breakdown is well-known and he will try to leave his mark on this match with an authorative display in that facet of play. He will also be expected to do his bit as a ball carrier and especially on defence where usually makes a big impact.
Team news: Cheetahs head coach Franco Smith has rung the changes to his run-on side. Ox Nche, Johan Coetzee, Francois Uys and Boom Prinsloo are all included in the starting line-up with Charles Marais, Maks van Dyk, Carl Wegner and Henco Venter on the bench. Paul Schoeman moves to number eight, sending Henco Venter to the bench and Boom Prinsloo starting at number six. Joubert Engelbrecht will be making his Super Rugby debut, replacing William Small-Smith on inside centre.

Ita Vaea and Robbie Coleman will both start the match in place of the injured Jarrad Butler (knee) and Henry Speight (frontal bone). In other changes to the matchday squad, Robbie Abel has been named on the bench and could make his Super Rugby debut. The hooker is in line to make his debut, following the one-week suspension to Josh Mann-Rea. Back-up prop Ruan Smith has been named as a reserve for his first Super Rugby match of 2016. Jordan Smiler, who started last week’s match against the Stormers at number eight, returns to the bench, while James Dargaville comes in as a useful back-line cover. 
Form: The Cheetahs suffered home defeats againsts the Jaguares and Stormers before bouncing back with a hard-fought away victory over the Sunwolves. They then lost 39-22 against the Lions in Johannesburg last weekend.

The Brumbies made a bright start to the tournament with convincing home victories over the Hurricanes and Waratahs before beating the Western Force in Perth. Their winning run came to an end last weekend when the Stormers beat them in Cape Town.
Prediction: This should be an entertaining affair as both sides have attacking game-plans. The Brumbies are the classier side, however, and should return to the victory trail. Brumbies to win by 10 points.

Previous results:

2015: Brumbies won 20-3 in Canberra
2014: Brumbies won 27-21 in Bloemfontein
2013: Brumbies won 15-13 in Canberra
2012: Brumbies won 24-23 in Canberra
2011: Cheetahs won 47-36 in Bloemfontein
2010: Brumbies won 61-15 in Canberra
2009: Brumbies won 40-27 in Bloemfontein

The teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Joubert Engelbrecht, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Hilton Lobberts, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Fred Zeilinga

Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Christian Lealiifano (c), 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jordan Smiler, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Nigel Ah Wong

Date: Saturday, March 26
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 15:05 local (13:05 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, AJ Jacobs
TMO: Willie Vos