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Rugby | Pro14

Jaco van der Walt © Gallo Images

Plenty SA interest in PRO14



The Toyota Cheetahs’ strong challenge for a place in the Guinness PRO14 play-offs should take another step when they resume battle in the competition by hosting Edinburgh on Friday night.

However, their clash with the Scots and the Southern Kings’ match against the high flying Scarlets in Port Elizabeth on Sunday is not the only South African interest in the competition. Johan van Graan, who has spent just one week with Munster after ending his career as Springbok assistant coach in Paris last Saturday night, will face a baptism of fire as he takes his new team to Italy to face Zebre.

The Zebre were expected to be the soft touches in the competition but they have turned in some creditable performances and shocked a few bigger teams this year and Munster could find them tough at Stadio Lafranchi. Another South African coming into the competition for the first time with a foreign team this weekend is former Lions flyhalf/fullback Jaco van der Walt. One of several players released from his Lions contract at the end of the Currie Cup season, Van der Walt will be part of the Edinburgh team that faces the Cheetahs.

The top three teams in each of two sections made up of seven teams advances to the extended play-off phase and the Cheetahs, in third position in Conference A, are well placed to get into the knock-outs even though they are well behind the leaders, the unbeaten Glasgow Warriors. They are currently four log points ahead of the next team and a win on Friday will give them a significant step up.

The Kings have struggled in PRO14 but showed some signs of improvement last time out and it will be interesting to see if the fact their return to Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium after taking the game to the communities in their last home game is on a Sunday will make a difference to the poor turn-outs that have been evidenced so far in Port Elizabeth. The Scarlets are just ahead in the battle for supremacy in Conference B. The Kings are at the opposite end of the log, with just two log points, which were both garnered in their last game.

Most of the top teams are missing key players to international duty so this might be a weekend for a few upsets.

WEEKEND FIXTURES

Cheetahs v Edinburgh (Bloemfontein, Friday 19.30)
Ulster v Benetton (Belfast, Friday 21.05)
Cardiff Blues v Connacht (Cardiff, Friday 21.35)
Leinster v Newport Dragons (RDS Arena, Friday 21.35)
Southern Kings v Scarlets (Port Elizabeth, Sunday 15.00)
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors (Liberty Stadium, Sunday 15.00)
Zebre v Munster (Stadio Lanfranchi, Sunday 15.30)



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