Tuesday 16 October 2018

Munster out to finish tour on a high against Cheetahs

Johann van Graan. Photo: Sportsfile
Johann van Graan. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon in Bloemfontein

South Africa is a country of sharp contrasts and Munster have seen plenty of that over the past two weeks. Millionaire mansions and five-star hotels stand side by side with shanty towns; stunning scenery can be dotted with rubbish tips.

It was hitting 25C when Munster left their base in Cape Town yesterday morning but a 90-minute flight took them to a rainy day in Bloemfontein.

The forecast is for rain again this morning on what is expected to be a sticky day, all of it adding to demands of playing at altitude in the Highveld.

A win this evening will wrap up a home quarter-final in the PRO14 but, of course, there is also one eye on Sunday week's showdown with Racing 92 in Bordeaux in the Champions Cup semi-final.

Johann van Graan is no stranger to the demands placed on visiting teams at Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein and he knows it will take a big performance if they are to become only the second PRO14 side after Glasgow Warriors to escape from the Highveld with a win.

Attacking

"I think their attacking ability is one of their strongest points. They put you under a massive amount of pressure with their width," Van Graan said.

"They also finish games very strongly. Connacht found that and so too did Cardiff last weekend. It shows they are a very fit team."

He has made nine changes to the side which secured a bonus-point 39-22 win over the Southern Kings after a stuttering start.

Conor Murray, who is on the bench, is the only one of Munster's front-line players not to start either game in South Africa. But, with an eye on Sunday week and Racing 92, the return of Simon Zebo and Darren Sweetnam is a boost.

Zebo has shaken off a hip issue and Sweetnam has recovered from a minor hamstring problem.

The Cheetahs need to win this one to keep their hopes of a home quarter-final alive and have gone for broke by starting South African international Johan Goosen.

Goosen is no stranger to Munster but astonished the rugby world by walking out on Racing 92 a year and a half ago to return to South Africa to run a horse stud farm.

But Montpellier owner Mohad Altrad has bought out his contract at Racing 92, with Goosen recently joining the Cheetahs in a bid to get some game-time ahead of his move to the south of France.

Cheetahs - C Blommetjies; W Small-Smith, F Venter, N Marais, S Maxwane; J Goosen, T Meyer; O Nche, T van Jaarsveld, J Coetzee; C Wegner, R Hugo; P Schoeman, O Mohoje, U Cassiem. Reps: J du Toit, C Marais, T Botha, R Bernardo, H Venter, Z Mkhabela, C Swart, AJ Coertzen.

Munster - S Zebo; A Conway, S Arnold, D Goggin, D Sweetnam; JJ Hanrahan, J Hart; B Scott, N Scannell, J Ryan; G Grobler, B Holland; P O'Mahony, J O'Donoghue, R Copeland. Reps: R Marshall, D Kilcoyne, S Archer, D O'Callaghan, C Oliver, C Murray, I Keatley, R Scannell.

REF - M Adamson (Scotland)

  • Cheetahs v Munster, Live, Sky Sports, 6.35

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