Guinness Pro14 Preview: Ulster v Cheetahs 4 months ago

Guinness Pro14 Preview: Ulster v Cheetahs

eir Sport

Ruan Pienaar is finally making a return to Ravenhill for Ulster v Cheetahs.

Like wounded cheetahs lions, you can bet that the South African side is reeling from that loss to Leinster last weekend. That was their lowest score of the season so far, and they would have fancied their chances of testing a Leinster side without their international contingent.

That wasn't the case however, and now the Toyota Cheetahs continue their tour of Ireland with a trip to Belfast this Saturday, 22 February at 7.35pm (live on eir sport Xtra). What lies in wait for them is the former home of their talismanic number nine Ruan Pienaar, and a side they thrashed 63-26 earlier this season.

Few would expect a result anything close to that in Kingspan Ravenhill, but last week did not offer an accurate reading of the South African side's quality. Fullback Rhyno Smith (playing right wing this week) is still topping the charts for tries scored and metres gained, and only Leinster have scored more tries out of every team in the league.

You would have to imagine that Ulster would view this as one of their most difficult non-derby matches of the Guinness Pro14 season. Not only that, but the return of former scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar is certain to get plenty of attention, as there are plenty out there who still feel he should have been kept by the province.

Here are the two squads:

Ulster

15. Michael Lowry

14. Robert Baloucoune

13. Luke Marshall

12. James Hume

11. Louis Ludik

10. Bill Johnston

9. David Shanahan

1. Eric O’Sullivan

2. Adam McBurney

3. Marty Moore

4. Alan O’Connor (C)

5. Kieran Treadwell

6. Nick Timoney

7. Jordi Murphy

8. Marcell Coetzee

Bench: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, Sean Reidy, Jonny Stewart, Stewart Moore, Craig Gilroy.

Cheetahs

15. Clayton Blommetjies

14. Rhyno Smith

13. William Small-Smith

12. Benhard Janse van Rensburg

11. Craig Barry

10. Tian Schoeman

9. Ruan Pienaar (C)

1. Boan Venter

2. Wilmar Arnoldi

3. Luan de Bruin

4. Sintu Manjezi

5. Walt Steenkamp

6. Chris Massyn

7. Junior Pokomela

8. Jasper Wiese

Bench: Joseph Dweba, Charles Marais, Aranos Coetzee, JP du Preez, Aidon Davis, Tian Meyer, Louis Fouche, Chris Smit.

Predictions

Ulster struggled last weekend against a weakened Ospreys team, and were steamrolled the last time these two sides met. A win would put a much more positive spin on things before a trip to Benetton next week, but they definitely have their work cut out for them.

Saying that, Belfast is one of the most difficult places to go in the league and Ulster aren't second in the conference by accident. They've named a strong pack, and Robert Baloucoune has proven to be one of the most exciting players in the league, and few could complain if he togged out in green sometime soon.

James Hume and Michael Lowry coming back couldn't have come at a better time either. Jacob Stockdale and Will Addison will both be sorely missed, so it's up to these youngsters to stop Pienaar from doing the kind of damage that once made him so popular with the home fans.

Verdict: Ulster by five points.

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