Battered Cheetahs head to PE hoping to stay in play-off race
The Cheetahs will limp into the first ever South African PRO 14 derby against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday minus some key players.
Centres Francois Venter and William Small-Smith will both miss the match with neck and knee injuries respectively‚ which means Namibian hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld will captain the side.
Venter’s injury is not serious and should only miss this weekend’s game but Small-Smith is out for three months after tearing his medial collateral ligament (MCL).
The Cheetahs and Kings have never met in this competition although they did have four meetings at Super Rugby level.
The Bloemfontein side were always victorious in those encounters although the last time they met‚ in PE last July‚ there was only one-point in it as the Cheetahs won 21-20.
Much has happened since then with both sides dropping out of Super Rugby and moving into PRO 14‚ and despite the Kings’ struggles so far‚ it could be a tight match.
The Kings have yet to register a win in the competition after 11 matches while the Cheetahs are still in play-off position in Conference A despite a dispiriting loss to Benetton last weekend.
Discipline cost the Cheetahs last weekend as two yellow cards allowed the home team to come from behind to claim a morale-boosting 27-21 win.
Staying on the right side of the law is going to be a key factor for the Cheetahs in PE as they aim to stay on course for the play-offs.
“We must pick-up our discipline‚ it’s going to be key‚” the injured Venter told Bloemfontein radio station OFM.
“Especially in areas that we can control.
"Things like not rolling away‚ or offside lines. That really killed us a bit.
“Lessons have been learnt and it's time to move on.
"We take on the Kings now and it’s not going to be easy.
“It will be a tough game.
"I know that they have been waiting for us and we are going to have to be at our best to get an away win.”
The Kings come into the match on the back of a 37-7 loss to Edinburgh.