Preview: Cardiff Blues v Cheetahs

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Cardiff Blues are looking to put a four-game losing streak to an end as Cheetahs are welcomed to the Arms Park on Saturday evening, 5.15pm kick-off.

Defeats on the road against Glasgow and Ulster, as well as at home against Edinburgh and, most recently, Munster, have seen us slide well off the early pace in Conference B of the Guinness Pro14.

With this being the last weekend before the league takes a break for European competition, a win is vital to ensure the first block of fixtures does not include five losses back-to-back.

The task will not be an easy one though as getting a home win over this Cheetahs side will a tougher task than the previous two times we have played the Bloemfontein-based side at the Arms Park.

After a very successful Currie Cup campaign, which saw Free State lift the trophy for the sixth time in their history, the Cheetahs got the Pro14 season off to a flying start with three home wins in a row, over Munster, Glasgow and Ulster, scoring no less than 40 points in the process.

Tight losses away at Connacht and Scarlets have followed in the last two weeks, leaving them third in Conference A, as they prepare to head back to South Africa after Saturday’s game.

Despite that momentum there is still a dark cloud hanging over Hawes Fourie’s side though, as their away form in Europe continues to be poor. They have lose both the previous encounters at the Arms Park back in 2018.

Ellis Jenkins Cheetahs

Fourie has made five changes to the team that lose to Scarlets last week with the most notable name being Ruan Pienaar, the former Ulster and Montpellier man, as well as experienced Springbok, captaining the side from scrum-half.

Elsehwere, Lean de Bruin starts at loosehead, Walt Steenkamp in at second row and Gerhard Oliver coming in on the flank, while Anthony Volmink is in on the wing and there is a familiar name as former Scarlets back Clayton Blommetjies starts on the other wing.

Cheetahs: Rhyno Smith, Clayton Blommetjies, William Small-Smith, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Anthony Volmink, Tian Schoeman, Ruan Pienaar (c); Jasper Wiese, Junior Pokomela, Gerhard Olivier, Walk Steenkamp, Sintu Manjezi, Aranos Coetzee, Joseph Dweba, Luan de Bruin

Replacements: Wilmar Arnoldi, Boan Venter, Erich de Jager, JP du Preez, Sias Koen, Tian Meyer, George Whitehead, Louis Fouche

On the Cardiff Blues side the main story is that Lloyd Williams will captain the side on his 200th appearance in all competitions, becoming just the second man to reach the landmark in the regional era.

Around him there are a number of changes as Seb Davies joins Josh Turnbull in the second row and Nick Williams returns to the eight jersey as Will Boyde slides out to openside flanker.

Nick Williams Ulster

In the backs there is a change at fly-half as Jason Tovey will make his first start of the season as Jarrod Evans moves to inside centre, while Harri Millard gets the start on the right wing.

Macauley Cook could make his first appearance of the season of the bench while Alun Lawrence could make his Pro14 debut as back row cover.

Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan, Harri Millard, Rey Lee-Lo, Jarrod Evans, Aled Summerhill, Jason Tovey, Lloyd Williams (c); Corey Domachowski, Liam Belcher, Scott Andrews, Seb Davies, Josh Turnbull, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Will Boyde, Nick Williams

Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Brad Thyer, Keiron Assiratti, Macauley Cook, Alun Lawrence, Lewis Jones, Willis Halaholo, Jason Harries

With the weather improving all the time there is an increasing chance of an opening and attacking game between two sides who love to move the ball.

Cheetahs have plenty of attacking firepower and Cardiff Blues will have to kick well as Rhyno Smith tops the Pro14 for metres gained, defenders beaten and tries scored at full-back for the South Africans.

However, with a big back five forwards and the dual playmakers there is clear intent from the home team to go out and match the opposition every step of the way. Time to get back to winning ways, come on Cardiff!

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