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Week 4 Preview: Chiefs v Cheetahs

Thursday, March 6, 2008    sportal.co.nz

Many pre-season picks tipped them to be a playoff contender but any result other than a good win here will mean that for the third season running they will be off to the sort of poor start that may make recovery impossible.

VENUE & TIME: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, Saturday March 8, 19.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 13 – Chiefs 1, Cheetahs 1, drawn 1.

LAST TIME: March 2, 2007 (Bloemfontein) – Cheetahs 22-22 Chiefs.

WALKING WOUNDED: Both sides are without their regular skippers for this match (and the next few weeks); Jono Gibbes suffered a serious hamstring team last week and Juan Smith is not touring due to a knee injury. Mils Muliaina leads the Chiefs out, while Rory Duncan will captain the Cheetahs. The Chiefs do at least make one gain on the injury front, with Brendon Leonard returning to action. The Cheetahs get lineout ace Barend Pieterse in the lineup for the first time this season but have to do without first-five Jacques-Louis Potgieter (groin), wing Gavin Passens (hamstring) and flanker Kabamba Floors (neck) after all three were injured last week.

FORM: The Chiefs were not particularly good at Wellington, where their own mistakes and some poor defence let the Hurricanes take control of the match within half an hour. While the Chiefs scored three tries in return, the outcome was never in doubt and Ian Foster has cut a swathe through the team as a result, making seven personnel and three positional changes in the starting lineup and changing his entire bench. The Cheetahs took their third straight loss against the Blues, but contributed plenty to the entertaining spectacle on both sides of the ball. The Cheetahs, who have scored nine tries so far in the competition, grabbed a bonus point for tries and anyone who thought a 26-50 scoreline suggested a game of touch should watch the tape; there were more big hits than on the MTV Top 20.

WHO'S HOT: Although operating off a beaten pack, Tanerau Latimer and Liam Messam both had strong games at Wellington last week and both are rewarded with relegation to the bench. The forwards battled at set piece, although Kevin O'Neill was again strong in the lineout. The backs operated off crumbs, often under pressure and unable to make much headway in the face of some rugged Hurricanes defence, while way too many tackles were missed in midfield. The Cheetahs were also under the bat a week ago but their loose trio threatened whenever they got an attacking chance and the backs looked to be creative whenever possible. Although several Cheetahs are new at this level, flanker Heinrich Brussouw, No 8 Duane Vermeulen and fullback Hennie Daniller are showing good form and the veteran backs Noel Oelschig and Eddie Fredericks are still class players.

WE THINK: This is a tough one to pick, with the Chiefs showing so many changes and the Cheetahs having to recover from a bruising affair against the Blues and the long trip to New Zealand. Anything could happen, but our tip is a Chiefs win by a couple of points, and we expect to see plenty of tries.

TEAMS:

Chiefs: 1 – Simms Davison, 2 – Tom Willis, 3 – Ben May, 4 – Toby Lynn, 5 – Kevin O'Neill, 6 – Faifili Levave, 7 – Tom Harding, 8 – Sione Lauaki, 9 – Brendon Leonard, 10 – Stephen Donald, 11 – Sitiveni Sivivatu, 12 – Callum Bruce, 13 – Dwayne Sweeney, 14 – Sosene Anesi, 15 – Mils Muliaina (captain).

Reserves: 16 – Vern Kamo, 17 – Ben Castle, 18 – Hayden Hopgood, 19 – Liam Messam, 20 – Tanerau Latimer, 21 – David Bason, 22 – Lelia Masaga.

Cheetahs: 1 – Wian du Preez, 2 – Adriaan Strauss, 3 – Kobus Calldo, 4 – Rory Duncan (captain), 5 – Barend Pieterse, 6 – Heinrich Brussouw, 7 – Darron Nell, 8 – Duane Vermeulen, 9 – Noel Oelschig, 10 – Conrad Barnard, 11 – Jongi Nokwe, 12 – Meyer Bosman, 13 – JW Jonker, 14 – Eddie Fredericks, 15 – Hennie Daniller.

Reserves: 16 – Richardt Strauss, 17 – Ronnie Uys, 18 – David de Villiers, 19 – Hendro Scholtz, 20 – Tobie Botes, 21 – Tewis de Bruyn, 22 – Hendrik Meyer.

REFEREE: Paul Marks