Rugby 8.9.2017 01:37 pm

Pro14 explainer: Cheetahs face Munster … and a favourite son

The return of Francois Venter will lift the Cheetahs. Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images.

The return of Francois Venter will lift the Cheetahs. Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images.

The Cheetahs continue their first European trip this weekend against an Irish giant. But who exactly are they? This guide will help.

The Cheetahs’ introduction to Pro14 rugby won’t get any easier this weekend.

Following a fairly comprehensive 19-42 loss to Irish side Ulster last week, they arguably face even stiffer competition in Munster.

It’s an ironic meeting of sorts.

The men from Bloemfontein come up against one of the union’s favourite sons: Rassie Erasmus.

He’s still Munster’s highly successful director of rugby but moves back to South Africa at the end of the year to fulfill the same role at SA Rugby.

How the Cheetahs’ must’ve wished there wasn’t still time left for him to still be coaching against them.

Here’s what you need to know about the match.

When and where does this match kickoff?

On Saturday evening at 18.15 (SA time) at Thomond Park in Limerick.

Who is Munster?

If you’re looking to play against one of Ireland’s top dogs, Munster would be at the top of your list along with bitter rival Leinster.

They’ve consistently been in the running for trophies and are a popular team because they still predominantly have local Irish lads on their books instead of splurging on foreign players.

Munster have won the Pro14 title three times in their history.

However, fans are becoming a bit anxious because the last of those was in the 2010/11 season.

In fact, they’ve been runners-up twice in the last three seasons and might need to shed the so-called bridesmaids tag.

What are Munster’s prospects?

They are undoubtedly one of the favourites to claim silverware.

Munster actually had a brilliant 2016/17 campaign, only losing three regular season games.

They’ll just need a better sense of occasion and not lose the plot when the stakes are at their highest.

Munster might’ve lost their brilliant lock Donnacha Ryan to French giants Toulon but in general there’s continuity in their squad.

They boast two of the Irish national team’s foremost stars in scrumhalf Conor Murray and former Saffer CJ Stander, as well as another Britsh and Irish Lion in Peter O’Mahoney.

Rather, there are concerns over how Erasmus’ departure will affect them in mid-campaign.

It’s not the best time to be bringing in new ideas.

How are the Cheetahs looking?

Well, at least they can say they’ve now had their taste of European conditions and the unfamiliarity is now gone.

That alone should give the Cheetahs a boost.

Another positive is that inspirational playmaker and captain Francois Venter has been released from the Springboks squad and is present.

He adds steel to the Cheetahs’ defence and a bit of much-needed star power too.

Rory Duncan’s men aren’t expected to beat Munster but hopefully they’ll show more tactical adaptability and gradual improvement.

Teams: 

Cheetahs: Clayton Blommetjies, Sergeal Petersen, Francois Venter (c), William Small-Smith, Makazole Mapimpi, Robbie Petzer, Shaun Venter, Niell Jordaan, Henco Venter, Paul Schoeman, Reniel Hugo, Rynier Bernardo, Aranos Coetzee, Jacques du Toit, Charles Marais. Bench: Torsten van Jaarsveld, Ox Nche, Tom Botha, Armandt Koster, Gerhard Olivier, Tian Meyer, Ali Mgijima, Ryno Benjamin.

Munster: Andrew Conway, Darren Sweetnam, Chris Farrell, Jaco Taute (SA), Alex Wootton, Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams, Jack O’Donoghue, Tommy O’Connell, Sean O’Connor, Billy Holland (c), Jean Kleyn (SA), Stephen Archer, Rhys Marshall, Liam O’Connor. Bench: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Fineen Wycherley, Robin Copeland, James Hart, Rory Scannell, Simon Zebo.

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