The Toyota Cheetahs will be facing Zebre in Round 13 of the Guinness PRO14 Championship in their first match of the New Year on Sunday in Parma, Italy (start 15:00, SA time).
The Cheetahs are refreshed and well prepared to take on the team from Italy after a four-week festive season break and will enter the match with confidence, as they occupy a higher log position than their Italian rivals despite playing two fewer matches in the competition.
The hosts boast three victories in 12 matches to the Toyota Cheetahs’ two in 10 outings, but the Toyota Cheetahs have scored 63 more points in their matches, with their superior attack steering them to 31 tries to Zebre’s 19.
Coach Franco Smith’s men, however, will have to step up their defence, as Zebre have been more effective in that department.
This will mark the sides’ first clash this season, but after registering a comprehensive victory against Zebre Rugby Club in Bloemfontein and defeating the Italians 24-23 at home last season, the Toyota Cheetahs will look to continue this dominance against the side from Parma.
Chilly, but dry conditions are expected and this should be a close contest between two teams who love to throw the ball around.
“The players show a lot of enthusiasm and commitment at training and we are ready for the challenge ahead”, said Coach Franco Smith. “It will be tough to face a team who has twice at home but we are ready to take them on.”
The following players are not eligible for team selection due to injury: Quintin Vorster (ankle), Dries Swanepoel (shoulder), Oupa Mohoje (knee), Jasper Wiese (shoulder), Lloyd Greeff (hamstring), Jacques Du Toit (knee), Boan Venter (hip), Jamba Ulenga (neck).
Cheetahs team: 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (Captain), 8 Daniel Maartens, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Walt Steenkamp, 21 Abongile Nonkontwana, 22 Rudy Paige, 23 Louis Fouche
– African News Agency (ANA)