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Week 11 Preview: Cheetahs v Crusaders

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Friday, April 24, 2009    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein, Sunday April 26, 01.00 NZT (Saturday April 25, 15.00 local).

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 4 – Cheetahs 0, Crusaders 4.

LAST TIME: March 15, 2008 (Christchurch) – Crusaders 55-7 Cheetahs.

WALKING WOUNDED: Jacques-Louis Potgieter has a finger injury that will end his season and Meyer Bosman is going to have a late fitness test for his hand injury. Otherwise the Cheetahs are not too badly off. The Crusaders have made several changes this week, but only Andy Ellis (ribs) can be considered injury-enforced. Regular starters Bronson Murray, Isaac Ross and Kieran Read all get well-earned spells while Leon MacDonald also rides the pine. Kade Poki returns from his sprained ankle and Ryan Crotty has recovered sufficiently from his burst ear-drum to make the run-on XV.

FORM: The Cheetahs rebounded from their excellent win over the Sharks with a very ordinary effort against the Chiefs, who were none too flash themselves but who still won easily. On form over the full season, you would have to say the Chiefs match, not the Sharks one, is the real measure of the Cheetahs. The Crusaders did it again, grafting out a tight win by shutting their opponents (in this case the Sharks) out of the game with sterling defence. Given that the Crusaders are not even scoring 16 points per match, it's a good thing their defence is giving up less than 15.

WHO'S HOT: The Cheetahs will, as usual, rely on quality players like David de Villiers and Juan Smith to get the forwards moving. Smith is one of the best flankers in the game and de Villiers has been a tower of strength in the lineout. Given space Jongi Nokwe is dangerous but the Crusaders have made a speciality of last-ditch tackles and he'll need to really motor if he's to get away. Richie McCaw made a huge difference last week (so what's new?) and with him on deck the Crusaders suddenly have a huge advantage over other teams. The pressure will be on the new faces in the pack, as the men they have replaced have all been in top form recently. Out back Colin Slade has been a revelation on the wing, especially with some magnificent defence; now he might get a chance to show that speed on attack. Jared Payne, another clever attacker, will relish the extra room available from fullback

WE THINK: After weeks of battling away, we think the Crusaders might cut loose this week and win by a big score. Their defence will prove more than enough to contain the Cheetahs, so it's just a case of how much the attack can put on the board. Our pick is something in the 30-40 region, with not much given up at the other end.

TEAMS:

Cheetahs: 1 – Wian du Preez, 2 – Adriaan Strauss, 3 – Kobus Calldo, 4 – Wayne van Heerden, 5 – David de Villiers, 6 – Heinrich Brussow, 7 – Juan Smith (captain), 8 – Hendro Scholtz, 9 – Tewis de Bruyn, 10 – Naas Olivier, 11 – Jongi Nokwe, 12 – Meyer Bosman, 13 – Corne Uys, 14 – Danwel Demas, 15 – Hennie Daniller.

Reserves: 16 – Richardt Strauss, 17 – Bees Roux, 18 – Nico Breedt, 19 – Kabamba Floors, 20 – Sarel Pretorius, 21 – Piet van Zyl, 22 – Fabien Juries.

Crusaders: 1 – Wyatt Crockett, 2 – Jason Macdonald, 3 – Owen Franks, 4 – Brad Thorn, 5 – Ross Filipo, 6 – Michael Paterson, 7 – Richie McCaw (captain), 8 – Thomas Waldrom, 9 – Kahn Fotuali'i, 10 – Stephen Brett, 11 – Colin Slade, 12 – Ryan Crotty, 13 – Tim Bateman, 14 – Kade Poki, 15 – Jared Payne.

Reserves: 16 – Daniel Perrin, 17 – Bronson Murray, 18 – Isaac Ross, 19 – Kieran Read, 20 – Andy Ellis, 21 – Adam Whitelock, 22 – Leon MacDonald.

REFEREE: James Leckie