The Isuzu Southern Kings, with a new captain in JC Astle, and Toyota Cheetahs will be determined to get off to a fresh start in the Guinness PRO14 this weekend as the competition resumes after a revitalising two-week break.
The Isuzu Southern Kings will host the Scarlets at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth on Friday at 19h00, while the Toyota Cheetahs take on the Cardiff Blues in Bloemfontein on Saturday at 19h15.
While the men from Port Elizabeth have won one of their first six matches, the Toyota Cheetahs’ best result was a draw against Ulster – although the Bloemfontein outfit will draw inspiration from the fact that they were in the lead at some point in a handful of their matches.
The Isuzu Southern Kings – with Astle replacing regular skipper Michael Willemse who has been ruled out for up to three months due to a shoulder injury – have faced 2017 finalists, the Scarlets, three times since joining the competition last season, but they have yet to beat them.
However, Deon Davids’ men came close in Port Elizabeth last season, where they suffered a heart-breaking 34-30 defeat. This result, which the Scarlets followed up with a comprehensive 54-14 victory against the Southern Kings in September, is expected to inspire them as they go in search of their second victory this season.
The Scarlets will enter the match with four victories in six outings, but the Southern Kings would have taken note that both defeats by the Welshmen were away from home.
In Bloemfontein, the Toyota Cheetahs and Cardiff Blues could be involved in a tight tussle if history is anything to go by. The sides have met three times in the competition, with the Blues winning both their home games, while the Toyota Cheetahs emerged victorious in Bloemfontein.
All three encounters, however, were decided by no more than five points – the last of which was the Cardiff Blues’ 24-21 victory against the Free Staters in Wales in September, which the hosts will be determined to avenge after leading 21-10 in the second half.
But the Toyota Cheetahs will have their work cut out as the Cardiff Blues will enter the match high on confidence after three wins in a row. The men from Bloemfontein will have to keep a close eye on the visitors’ Owen Lane and Gareth Anscombe, in particular, should they take to the field, as they featured high up on the clean breaks and metres gained lists respectively in the last round.
Guinness PRO 14 Round 7 fixtures:
Isuzu Southern Kings v Scarlets
Date: Friday, 26 October
SA time: 19h00
Venue: Madibaz Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry and Paul Mente
TMO: Sean Veldsman
Toyota Cheetahs v Cardiff Blues
Date: Saturday, 27 October
SA time: 19h15
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Lloyd Linton (SRU)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman and Ruhan Meiring
TMO: Johan Greeff
Other Round 7 matches (SA kick-off times):
Friday, 26 October
20h00 – Zebre v Edinburgh – Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
20h55 – Ulster v Dragons – Kingspan Stadium, Belfast
21h05 – Ospreys v Connacht – Morganstone Brewery Field, Bridgend
Saturday, 27 October
16h00 – Benetton v Leinster – Stadio Monigo, Treviso
18h15 – Munster v Glasgow Warriors – Thomond Park, Limerick