Wed 12 Jul 2017 | 09:42


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Wed 12 Jul 2017 | 09:42



When they meet at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Friday, it will be their last appearance in Super Rugby – before both head off to greener pastures in Europe.

Kings captain Lionel Cronje spoke of the "emotion" at their last training session on Wednesday.

"The players must enjoy themselves, have fun out there and be positive," he said, when asked about his pre-match message to the team.

He added that he expects the Cheetahs to play an "exciting" brand of rugby and spectators will get value for money.

Cheetahs coach Franco Smith said it remains a "massive" game for them,  with "pride" the key element.

"We have new challenges ahead, but we want to finish this one properly," Smith added.

Before we get to the 'dance of the discards', there are two other matches on Friday – the Highlanders hosting the Reds and the Revels at home to the Jaguares.

In Part One of the preview we look at the Friday matches!

Friday, July 14:

Highlanders v Reds
(Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin – Kick-off: 19.35; 17.35 ASET; 07.35 GMT)

The Highlanders, like all the teams in the play-offs, see this as an important 'practice run' ahead of the quarterfinals.

Coach Tony Brown is confident his team can go all the way, nut they need to go into the quarterfinal with the momentum of a win this week.

The Highlanders will face either the Lions {in Johannesburg) or the Crusaders (in Christchurch) next week.

The Highlanders are coming off a massive morale-boosting victory against the British and Irish Lions, following by a 33-12 win against the Crusaders in a ''friendly'' in Timaru last week.

''We talk about the golden month around the play-offs," Brown told the Otago Daily Times.

"That is what it [the next four weeks] is and every player wants to be involved in it.

''This season we've had lot of injury problems and different things.

"But to be in this position is pretty exciting right now.''

Reds coach Nick Stiles spoke of the need to replicate last week's win over the Brumbies, when they came from behind to score a late winner.

"The side showed a lot of growth to tough out a difficult win in the dying stages of the game against the Australian Conference leaders last weekend," the Reds coach said.

"It was a great learning experience for the young players within the group, but now the challenge is there to back it up with another strong performance against a good New Zealand outfit this Friday.

"The Highlanders play a really quick game, with a lot of kicking."

Recent results:
2016: Reds won 28-27, Brisbane
2015: Highlanders won 20-13, Dunedin
2014: Reds won 38-31, Brisbane
2013: Reds won 34-33, Dunedin
2012: Reds won 19-13, Brisbane

Prediction: Each of the last eight games between these teams have seen the losing team pick up a bonus point; on six occasions in that span it has been the Queensland side who have emerged victorious. Only once from nine attempts in Super Rugby history have the Reds defeated the Highlanders when playing away from home, earning a one-point win against them in Round Seven, 2013. The Highlanders have earned competition points from each of their last 21 regular season games against teams from outside New Zealand, winning 18 of those games and earning a bonus point in the three losses in that period. The last time the Reds ended their Super Rugby regular season with a game against New Zealand opposition saw them net a 19-11 win against the Chiefs in 2011. The Highlanders have won their last three games played on a Friday, scoring an average of 51 points per game across that period. The Highlanders are most vulnerable in the first quarter and score most of their tries in the second half. The Reds, in contrast, concede most of their tries in the final quarter and that is where the Highlanders will seal the game – to win by 15 points.


Highlanders: 15 Richard Buckman, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Luke Whitelock (captain), 7 James Lentjes, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Gareth Evans, 20 Dan Pryor, 21 Josh Renton, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Patelesio Tomkinson.

Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Izaia Perese, 13 Campbell Magnay, 12 Duncan Paia'aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 James Tuttle, 8 Adam Korczyk, 7 George Smith, 6 Caleb Timu, 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Stephen Moore (captain), 1 Sef Fa'agase.
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Markus Vanzati, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Reece Hewat, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Jayden Ngamanu.
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Jamie Nutbrown; James Doleman
TMO: Aaron Paterson

Rebels v Jaguares
(AAMI Park, Melbourne – Kick-off: 19.30; 09.30 GMT; 06.30 Argentina time)

The Rebels still have the dark cloud of possible axing from Super Rugby hovering over them.

They return home for their final game of the Super Rugby season, hosting Argentina's Jaguares in an historic first-even encounter between the two sides.

With threats of legal action and counter action looming large, it is not the ideal preparation to go into the last match of the season.

In fact the Super Rugby cull a[[eared yo have been a destabilising factor throughout the season.

While the Rebels hold out hope of being back in 2018, at least one player will not return to the Revels after Friday.

Veteran Mitch Inman will line up for his 100th Super Rugby game against the Jaguares, in what will also be his final appearance after six years with the franchise.

The imposing centre says he will enjoy his last hurrah in Melbourne, before jetting off to join new team Oyonnax in the French Top 14.

"It's gone very quickly, but I will always hold a soft spot for the Rebels and their supporters," Inman said in an interview on the Rebels website.

"Obviously it's been a wonderful experience for me in a great city playing with some very good players.

" Not many people get to finish their term on a milestone of 100 games."

Inman believes the Rebels are ready to give their fans a solid performance.

"I've been very impressed with the Jaguares form of late, they were impressive against the Waratahs," he said

"They have big skilful forwards and some very good off loaders."

" They will be a side to contain, we've obviously done our homework and we are up for the challenge on Friday night."

Previous results:
These teams have never met before.

Prediction: The Rebels have earned two wins and one bonus-point loss in their final fixture of each of the last four campaigns, including a three-point win against the Reds last season. The Jaguares will take to the field on a Friday for just the second time this season, but haven't won on a weekday since their very first Super Rugby fixture in Round One last season. The Argentine squad have two wins from four previous encounters with Australian opposition, including a 40-27 win against the Waratahs last round. The Jaguares (11) and Rebels (10) have kicked the second and third most penalty goals respectively in the opening quarter of games this season; only the Sharks (14) have kicked more in that period. Four of the last six Rebels' tries have been scored by Marika Koroibete, who has bagged two doubles across his last three games. The Jaguares have been erratic, but not as much as the Rebels – who have made a habit of fading in the final quarter. The Jaguares should do the Aussie double – winning by 12 points.


Rebels: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (Captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga'a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Fereti Sa'aga, 19 Esei Haangana, 20 Murray Douglas, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23 Semisi Tupou/Jonah Placid

Jaguares: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Baez, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Benjamin Macome, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Austin Creevy (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Ramiro Herrera, 18 Lucas Noguera, 19 Ignacio Larrague, 20 Juan Cruz Guillemaín, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Juan Martin Hernández, 23 Santiago Cordero.

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy (Australia) , James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)

Southern Kings v Cheetahs
(Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth – Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT)

Don't be mislead by the suggestion that this is a game with nothing at stake.

There will be plenty of feeling in the pitch at The Nelson Mandela Bay stadium.

Both teams made it clear they want to depart Super Rugby by making a statement – with a big victory.

Cheetahs captain Francois Venter said they had all been waiting for confirmation of which teams will be axed.

No they have one last chance to show their true value.

"It doesn't take any pressure off," Venter said of confirmation that the two teams have been axed, adding that they are playing to restore pride in the Cheetahs.

Kings coach Deon Davids lauded his charges for a great season – which has seen them make history on a number of occasions, including six victories.

"I am really proud of how this team has performed this season," an emotional Davids said.

"I said to the guys that it was hard to believe that today [Wednesday] would be our last day training together as this same squad.

"I am amazed at the amount of growth we as a management team have seen in this team from the time we first got together for our pre-season.

"From the start this side showed signs of self-belief and dedication, and although many others would not have given this side a chance, they continued to work hard to ensure that we played a good brand of rugby and produced the results.
"I am immensely proud of every one of the members of this entire squad that has been part of our setup this season.

"It is these special group that has proven that with dedication, belief, hard work and the great team culture that we have – anything is possible. It has been an absolute pleasure being at the helm of such a special group."

Cheetahs coach Franco Smith also spoke of the emotion of the occasions, which the Kings have billed as a 'goodbye game'.

"They must be the favourites, based on their winning streak [victories over the Jaguares and Bulls]," Smith said.

"The freedom they were allowed by the coaches, to play, contributed to their good run of form.

"They also had a lot of continuity with key players.

"Lionel [Cronje] was very good and Chris Cloete made a massive impact."

Recent results:
2016: Cheetahs won 34-20, Bloemfontein
2013: Cheetahs won 34-22, Port Elizabeth
2013: Cheetahs won 26-12, Bloemfontein

Prediction: The Cheetahs have won each of the previous three meetings between these franchises, winning each of those matches by 12+ points. The last eight South African derbies played in the final regular season round of competition have been decided by an average margin of 26 points, with the home team winning on five occasions. The Kings win an average of 9.4 turnovers per game this season, the most of any team in the competition and more than three more than the last-ranked Cheetahs (6.1). The Cheetahs have made 16.6 offloads per game so far this season, the most of any team in the competition and more than five more per game than the Kings (11.4). Makazole Mapimpi gains an average of 10.3m per carry so far this season, the most of any player who has made 50-plus carries. Of there is one team that deserves the 'choker tag' it is the Cheetahs. In seven of their 14 games they held the lead going into the final 10 minutes, only to lose. No doubt the Kings, who have come from behind in the number of games to secure victory, will have the edge at home and should win by 15 points.


Southern Kings: 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronje (captain), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Mzamo Majola.
Replacements: 16. Martin Bezuidenhout, 17. Schalk Ferreira, 18. Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19. Irne Herbst/Mzwanele Zito, 20. Thembelani Bholi, 21. Rudi van Rooyen, 22. Masixole Banda, 23. Waylon Murray/Yaw Penxe.
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Daniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johannes Coetzee, 2 Elandré Huggett, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Armandt Koster, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Chris Dry, 22 Ruan van Rensburg, 23 Niel Marais.

Referee: Egon Seconds (South Africa)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs, Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Shaun Veldsman

Compiled by Jan de Koning

* Statistics provided by Opta Sports &

PV: 2
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