Friday, September 22, 2017

Preview - Cheetahs v Leinster



"We know it is hard so it was good for them to feel that initial shock to the system but after that it was 'hang on a minute, we’re actually fit enough, it’s okay, we can adapt to this'."

I like to think of myself as a positive person especially when it comes to sport but at the same time I am also a superstitious one and Girvan Dempsey's remarks on the 'altitude factor' of playing in Bloemfontein gave me a bit of a shudder - hopefully he won't be regretting those words come full time this evening.

Yet what can we do but take him at his word that Leinster have that issue sorted and if so, despite the Cheetahs recording their first Pro14 victory last weekend, we should be confident of at very least coming home from the southern hemisphere with our unbeaten record intact.  Damn, I've gone and tempted fate myself, haven't I?

Not surprisingly there is a lot of chopping and changing to our starting lineup but most interesting is at centre.  I remember back in the Darce/Drico era we heard much about how BOD relied on his inside centre for indications as to what was heading down their channel - I have a feeling Isa's experience brings something similar to the table for Leinster.

Rory O'Loughlin received mixed reviews for his performance in Port Elizabeth...some praised him for his try and help with another one while I wasn't so kind because I couldn't get past the number seven against his name on the 'missed tackle' chart.  I'm not too concerned about this long term for him but perhaps this anomaly was down to having Noel Reid at 12 - while he had a good outing himself, he might not offer the same overall help that Isa would.

Now we have an interesting duo in that Reid has gone to 13 as his skipper returns to 12.  Although Fergus McFadden, who was forced to return home early due to an injury concern along with Luke McGrath, could well have been slated for outside centre, this selection shows a great confidence in the former Clontarf player and I see no reason why he shouldn't do well.

The reason I'm focusing on our centres is because, more so than usual, it's our defence which will be key in this contest.  The South African commentators seemed amazed by our organisation against the Kings and while Michael Bradley's Zebre did themselves credit by bringing the game to the Cheetahs, I'm hoping the home side won't find their way to anywhere near eight tries on the night.

If we can play sensibly with the ball and not give their dangerous players like Petersen and Mapimpi too many broken field opportunities [as impressive and all as Ross Byrne can be with his boot he'll need to be spot on as will JGP with his box-kicks] then we should be able to hold them out enough to create the right amount of chances to stay ahead.

With one very big exception of lineouts [where the Cheetahs also had issues last week it must be said] our pack has done really well for the first three rounds whatever way it has been put together.  I thought we might go for a 6/2 split on the bench for this one yet still it's very possible that Ruddock is wearing 19 just for injury cover and our starting locks could be slated to play the full eighty with a pair of fresh back rows ready to help out in the final half hour if needed.

The bookies have us winning by fourteen - that's a phenomenal spread given how far we are from home plus the fact that we're up against a team that scored fifty the week before.  Still, again at the risk of tempting fate, I'm going to back them to do slightly better with a 17-20 point prediction.  

Hopefully we'll approach with the confidence to get the full five points but if we end up getting away with 'just' the four I can't see myself being too concerned.  This is uncharted territory for us as well as the league and we'll have the visit of Edinburgh next Friday to assess where we are for the bigger matches in October when the surroundings are more familiar.  JLP

#COYBIB

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Leinster : 15. Joey Carbery 14. Dave Kearney 13. Noel Reid 12. Isa Nacewa CAPTAIN 11. Barry Daly 10. Ross Byrne 9. Jamison Gibson-Park
1. Cian Healy 2. James Tracy 3. Michael Bent 4. Ross Molony 5. Mick Kearney 6. Jordi Murphy 7. Josh van der Flier 8. Jack Conan
16. Seán Cronin 17. Peter Dooley 18. Andrew Porter 19. Rhys Ruddock 20. Max Deegan 21. Nick McCarthy 22. Cathal Marsh 23. Rory O’Loughlin

Cheetahs : 15 Sergeal Petersen 14 Rosco Specman 13 Francois Venter (Captain) 12 William Small-Smith 11 Makazole Mapimpi 10 Ernst Stapelberg 9 Tian Meyer
1 Charles Marais 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld 3 Tom Botha 4 Justin Basson 5 Reniel Hugo 6 Paul Schoeman 7 Henco Venter 8 Oupa Mohoje
16 Jacques du Toit 17 Ox Nche 18 Johan Coetzee 19 Rynier Bernardo 20 Junior Pokomela 21 Shaun Venter 22 Nico Lee 23 Luther Obi

Guinness Pro14 2017/18 - Round 4
Friday, September 22, 2017
KO 7pm (Irish time)
Toyota Stadium

Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)
AR1: Ben Whitehouse (WRU). 
AR2: Stuart Berry (SARU)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (SARU).
SuperSport 1: 7.45pm
Sky Sports Action: 6.45pm

Also this weekend

Friday, September 22

Benetton Treviso v Ospreys
Glasgow Warriors v Munster
Ulster v Dragons

Saturday, September 23

Connacht v Cardiff Blues
Southern Kings v Zebre
Scarlets v Edinburgh

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