PREVIEW: Scarlets v Cheetahs

Fri, 04 May 2018 08:54

PRO14 SEMIFINAL QUALIFIER: This is a mouth-watering pairing and a match-up that could create memories that last for many years to come as the defending champions take on the Cheetahs. 

Both of these teams have been responsible for the most daring and exciting play in the Pro14 and now they meet with a semifinal trip to Glasgow on the line.

The Scarlets look to launch their title defence by playing a Final Series game at home for the first time. The Cheetahs have caught the imagination with their off-loading game but they are yet to develop consistent results away from Bloemfontein. 

The Scarlets' continue to be lethal from turnover situations and with their free-flowing play this game promises the perfect elements for an end-to-end spectacle that should showcase the best of the Pro14.

A trip to Parc y Scarlets to face the defending champions could be seen as daunting prospect, but Cheetahs head coach Rory Duncan is relishing the challenge.

"It's quite exciting to hear that the support is there and everybody’s excited about the game," said Duncan.

"It's obviously a special game for us, I don't think there's any moving away from the guys realising that they're in the play-offs and it's exciting for us to be here.

"First of all, I think the last time the Scarlets lost a home game in the Pro14 was about 2016 so it's a fantastic challenge for our players.

"With regards to the Scarlets and the way they've performed they're obviously a quality outfit and they've got some great players in their line-up.

"We've obviously done our prep and our homework in terms of this game as we have with every other where we've faced quality players."

The match will be a big one for Scarlets and Wales centre Scott Williams, who is playing his last game in a Scarlets jersey at Parc y Scarlets. Williams will be joining Ospreys at the end of the season.

"It was a bit of a weird feeling the Glasgow game," Williams told Scarlets. "In my mind I felt like we had another one to go. We managed to secure a home quarterfinal and I'm looking forward to the weekend. Hopefully, we can get the same sort of crowd that we had for La Rochelle.

"We have had amazing support all season, the best support we've had here since we moved over to Parc y Scarlets. It was massive for us to secure home advantage. Our home record here is very good and teams find it tough to come here and win."

Reflecting on his Scarlets career Williams said: "There are loads of highlights, I've been here a long time now. It will be emotional on the weekend, but I'm going to go out there and give it my all.

"We’re the defending champions, we want to go on and win it again this season. We’ll do everything we can to win it again."

Overall Pro14 head to head record:
Played 1, Cheetahs won 1.

Prediction: The winner of this fixture will face Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium on Friday, May 18. Defending Pro14 champions, Scarlets, have reached the end of season play-offs for just the third time. Scarlets record over the last eight rounds of the Pro14 is a disappointing won three, drawn one, lost four. Scarlets are unbeaten in their last twenty matches at Parc y Scarlets in the pro14, their best home run in the history of the tournament. Cheetahs have made the play-offs at their first attempt in the pro14 with their only defeat in the last five rounds being at home to Munster on April 13. Cheetahs have played three games in Wales in 2018, losing at Cardiff Blues and Ospreys but winning at Dragons. The two sides' only previous meeting was in Round 10 in Bloemfontein, with Cheetahs winning 28-21. The Scarlets will take this one by 12 points.

Teams:

Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steffan Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay, 7 James Davies, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 Steven Cummins, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens (captain), 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Elias Ryan, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Will Boyde, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Daniel Jones, 23 Steffan Hughes.

Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Bommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Niel Marais, 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Renier Bernardo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Daniel Hugo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Mthokozisi Mkhabela, 22 Clinton Swart, 23 Lloyd Greeff.

Date: Saturday, May 5
Venue: Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli
Kick-off: 18.35 (19.35 SA time; 17.35 GMT)
Expected weather: It will be partly cloudy with a high of 17°C and a low of 9°C. There will be a slight breeze. 
Referee: George Clancy 
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy, Mike Adamson
TMO: Olly Hodges

Source: @PRO14Official & @scarlets_rugby

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PRO14
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Pool A
Team P W D L Pts
Glasgow Warriors 21 15 1 5 76
Munster 21 13 1 7 69
Cheetahs 21 12 0 9 63
Cardiff Blues 21 11 0 10 54
Ospreys 21 9 0 12 44
Connacht 21 7 0 14 39
Zebre 21 7 0 14 36
Pool B
Team P W D L Pts
Leinster 21 14 1 6 70
Scarlets 21 14 1 6 70
Edinburgh 21 15 0 6 68
Ulster 21 12 2 7 62
Treviso 21 11 0 10 55
Dragons 21 2 2 17 20
Kings 21 1 0 20 11