The Toyota Cheetahs and Isuzu Southern Kings will be determined to make their presence felt when they host visitors from Italy and Ireland this weekend as the Guinness PRO14 resumes after a two week break.
The Free Staters suffered a heart-breaking 30-26 defeat against Munster in their last outing following victory against the Cardiff Blues the previous week, while the men from Port Elizabeth come off two seven-point defeats in a row, which they will be determined to bounce back from when they return to the field.
The Toyota Cheetahs host Benetton in Bloemfontein in the only match on Saturday, while the Isuzu Southern Kings take on Connacht in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
In the clash at the Toyota Stadium, the Free Staters will look to build on their encouraging win record against Italian opposition, showing two victories in three matches, when they host Benetton.
The teams met for the first time in January in Treviso, and Benetton ground out a 27-21 victory. This narrow defeat, combined with the fact that Benetton come of back-to-back losses will undoubtedly give the hosts confidence as they look to power their way up the standings after a slow start to the season.
The Toyota Cheetahs will also draw confidence from the fact that only one of Benetton’s three victories this season was away from home. The home team’s attack has been marginally better than that of the Italians so far this season, but the visitors’ defence has been superior with 13 fewer tries conceded in their eight matches.
In Port Elizabeth, the Isuzu Southern Kings will go in search of their first victory against Connacht, and Irish opposition, since joining the Guinness PRO14 last season. The teams have only met once before, and that match was in Galway last year, where the Isuzu Southern Kings went down 32-10.
The home side will also enter the match with a better attacking record, with 23 tries scored to Connacht’s 21, but similarly to the Toyota Cheetahs, they will have to stand their ground on defence after conceding almost double the amount of points in the first eight rounds.
Guinness PRO 14 Round 9 fixtures:
Toyota Cheetahs v Benetton
Date: Saturday, 24 November
SA time: 14h30
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Craig Evans (WRU)
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse and Jaco Kotze
TMO: Johan Greeff
Isuzu Southern Kings v Connacht
Date: Sunday, 25 November
SA time: 15h00
Venue: Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth
Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)
Assistant referees: Paul Mente and Ruhan Meiring
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
Other Round 9 matches (SA kick-off times):
Friday, 23 November:
21h35: Glasgow Warriors v Cardiff Blues – Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow
21h35: Leinster v Ospreys – RDS Arena, Dublin
21h35: Scarlets v Ulster – Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli
Sunday, 25 November:
17h30: Zebre v Munster – Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
19h30: Dragons v Edinburgh – Rodney Parade, Newport