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Super Rugby preview: Cheetahs v Blues
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The Cheetahs host the Blues in Bloemfontein on Saturday looking for a win that would significantly boost their chances of reaching the Super Rugby play-offs for the first time.
Naka Drotske's men are looking to bounce back from successive defeats and know that with a bye next week, a win over their Kiwi opponents would all but assure them of a play-off spot.
The Blues also harbour top six ambitions but a run of four straight defeats has seen them slip down to eighth, two points behind Saturday's hosts, albeit with a game in hand.
Sir John Kerwan's men face table toppers the Chiefs in their final game and know, in all likelihood, it will take two victories to make the play-offs.
Kerwan is without injured playmaking pair Piri Weepu and Chris Noakes for the game with Jamison Gibson-Park and Baden Kerr coming in at 9 and 10, respectively. The Blues have also brought in Rene Ranger on the wing in place of George Moala and Sam Prattley replaced Tim Perry in the front row.
For the Cheetahs it is the same XV that lost at the Stormers last time out with Ryno Benjamin for Howard Mnisi the only change amongst the replacements.
Drotske is confident his side will be up for what is being treated liked a knock-out game for the South African outfit.
"We'll approach the Blues game with a final mentality and we view it as our first play-off game," he said.
"We don't want to be in a situation where we're sitting at home during the last weekend and hoping other teams get results that will favour us.
"We have the chance to shape our own destiny in the tournament. Victory over the Blues will guarantee us a place in the play-offs."
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagné, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Ligtoring Landman, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Elgar Watts, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park; 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (captain), 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Sam Prattley. Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Wayne Ngaluafe, 21 Marty McKenzie, 22 George Moala.
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|Friday 13th February|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Melbourne Rebels|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Reds|
|17:10||Lions vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 14th February|
|06:35||Blues vs Chiefs|
|15:05||Sharks vs Cheetahs|
|17:05||Bulls vs Stormers|
|Sunday 15th February|
|06:05||Waratahs vs Western Force|
|Friday 20th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Brumbies|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Waratahs|
|17:10||Bulls vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 21st February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Reds vs Western Force|
|15:05||Stormers vs Blues|
|17:10||Sharks vs Lions|
|Friday 27th February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Reds|
|11:00||Western Force vs Hurricanes|
|17:10||Cheetahs vs Blues|
|Saturday 28th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Brumbies|
|15:05||Bulls vs Sharks|
|17:10||Lions vs Stormers|
|Friday 6th March|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Highlanders|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Western Force|
|Saturday 7th March|
|06:35||Blues vs Lions|
|08:40||Reds vs Waratahs|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com