Cape Town - The Southern Kings and Cheetahs will be determined to get off to a fresh start in the PRO14 this weekend as the competition resumes after a revitalising two-week break.
The Southern Kings, with a new captain in lock JC Astle, will host the Scarlets at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth on Friday (19:00), while the Cheetahs take on the Cardiff Blues in Bloemfontein on Saturday (19:15).
While the men from Port Elizabeth have won one of their first six matches, the Cheetahs’ best result was a draw against Ulster - although the Bloemfontein outfit will draw inspiration from the fact that they were in the lead at some point in a handful of their matches.
The Southern Kings - with Astle replacing regular skipper Michael Willemse who has been ruled out for up to three months due to a shoulder injury - have faced 2017 finalists, the Scarlets, three times since joining the competition last season, but they have yet to beat them.
However, Deon Davids’ men came close in Port Elizabeth last season, where they suffered a heart-breaking 34-30 defeat. This result, which the Scarlets followed up with a comprehensive 54-14 victory against the Southern Kings in September, is expected to inspire them as they go in search of their second victory this season.
The Scarlets will enter the match with four victories in six outings, but the Southern Kings would have taken note that both defeats by the Welshmen were away from home.
In Bloemfontein, the Cheetahs and Cardiff Blues could be involved in a tight tussle if history is anything to go by. The sides have met three times in the competition, with the Blues winning both their home games, while the Cheetahs emerged victorious in Bloemfontein.
All three encounters, however, were decided by no more than five points - the last of which was the Cardiff Blues’ 24-21 victory against the Free Staters in Wales in September, which the hosts will be determined to avenge after leading 21-10 in the second half.
But the Cheetahs will have their work cut out as the Cardiff Blues will enter the match high on confidence after three wins in a row. The men from Bloemfontein will have to keep a close eye on the visitors’ Owen Lane and Gareth Anscombe, in particular, should they take to the field, as they featured high up on the clean breaks and metres gained lists respectively in the last round.
PRO 14 Round 7 fixtures:
Southern Kings v Scarlets
Date: Friday, October26
SA time: 19:00
Venue: Madibaz Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry and Paul Mente
TMO: Sean Veldsman
Cheetahs v Cardiff Blues
Date: Saturday, October 27
SA time: 19:15
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Lloyd Linton (SRU)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman and Ruhan Meiring
TMO: Johan Greeff
Other Round 7 matches (SA kick-off times):
Friday, October 26
20:00 - Zebre v Edinburgh, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
20:55 - Ulster v Dragons, Kingspan Stadium, Belfast
21:05 - Ospreys v Connacht, Morganstone Brewery Field, Bridgend
Saturday, October 27
16:00 - Benetton v Leinster, Stadio Monigo, Treviso
18:15 - Munster v Glasgow Warriors, Thomond Park, Limerick