Super Rugby 2017: Cheetahs v Highlanders Preview

Super-Rugby-2017-Brumbies-v-Blues-preview

The Highlanders begin their tour of South Africa this Friday against the cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

The Cheetahs host the red-hot Highlanders this Friday in Bloemfontein, six days after succumbing to the undefeated Crusaders. The Cheetahs did manage two well-taken tries against the Canterbarians but will feel aggrieved that they didn’t score more. Some wasteful play by a few individuals cost them dearly, as the ‘Saders eventually sauntered to a 14-48 win. This weekend’s counterparts, on the other hand, haven’t lost a game since their mauling at the hands of the Hurricanes in Week 4, and come off the back of a marvellous display against the Stormers.

Cheetahs v Highlanders Preview | Friday 5 May | Toyota Stadium | 19h00

To Win (80 Mins)
Cheetahs 9/2 | Draw 28/1 | Highlanders 1/10
Handicap
Cheetahs (+16.5) 9/10 | Highlanders (-16.5) 9/10

Cheetahs
The Cheetahs played valiantly but were ultimately nowhere near good enough to beat last week’s opponents. Defensive ill-discipline, as well as poor decision-making in crucial areas, let Franco Smith’s side down immensely. They played without fear, for which they should be accredited, and for the opening ten or so minutes it did seem as though they were up for the contest. Eighty minutes later however, it was back to the drawing board for the ‘Bloemfontein Boytjies”, whose Super Rugby future looks increasingly bleaker with every loss.

There is little to suggest that they will shy away from coming out “all guns blazing” again this Friday, and their fearlessness may well catch the ‘Landers unawares. Being clinical in finishing off chances is where the Cheetahs will really need to improve this week, with so much work of their hard graft often undone by one or two poor on-field decisions. An improved defensive showing is also much needed, but it’s hard to see them silencing the likes of Ben Smith and Waisake Naholo throughout the entire contest.

Ox Nche’s star continues to rise this season, and he was very unlucky to have been ruled to have made a forward pass in the lead-up to Sergeal Peterson’s try. Allister Coetzee needs to take a good, hard look at this bloke before the French arrive on our shores in June…

Read more about the promising Ox Nche here -- > Year of The Ox Opinion Piece 



Highlanders
I won’t make the same mistake of underestimating the ability of this Kiwi side anytime soon! Their demolition of the Stormers last week was a sight to behold, with some ingenious attacking playmaking for a very entertaining spectacle. They may be fourth in the NZ Conference, but pundits should be wary of ruling them out of making a surprise semi-final appearance come play-off time.

Tony Brown’s men will look to attack the Cheetahs centres after an injury to key man, Nico Lee. That inside-center berth will no doubt be targeted by the likes of Naholo, who could come off the fringes to run into that channel off of Aaron Smith. The ‘Landers’ backline should have a field-day against this weak Cheetahs defensive unit (as the ‘Saders did last week), and they really could rack up a big score here.

Verdict: Highlanders (-16.5) 9/10
The Highlanders should ease to a comfortable win here, should no complacency set in. They may be due a loss, but I really can’t see them losing out to this current Cheetahs side. Franco Smith’s men have been below-par all season, and should battle to match the superiority of their opponents this weekend. The Free-Staters will have to show a lot of heart to stay in this one.

Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net!

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