“It will be tough to face a team who has won twice at home, but we are ready to take them on,” says Cheetahs coach Franco Smith about Zebre. Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp/BackpagePix

PARMA – The Cheetahs will be facing Zebre in Round 13 of the PRO14 in their first match of the New Year on Sunday in Parma, Italy (3pm SA time start.

The Cheetahs are refreshed and well prepared to take on the team from Italy after a four-week festive season break.

They will enter the match with confidence, as they occupy a higher log position than their Italian rivals despite playing two fewer matches.

The hosts boast three victories in 12 matches to the Cheetahs’ two in 10 outings, but the Bloemfontein outfit have scored 63 more points in their matches, with their superior attack steering them to 31 tries to Zebre’s 19.

Coach Franco Smith’s men, however, will have to step up their defence, as Zebre have been more effective in that department.

This will mark the sides’ first clash this season, but after registering a comprehensive victory against Zebre in Bloemfontein and defeating the Italians 24-23 at home last season, the Cheetahs will look to continue this dominance against the side from Parma.

Chilly, but dry conditions are expected, and this should be a close contest between two teams who love to throw the ball around.

“The players show a lot of enthusiasm and commitment at training, and we are ready for the challenge ahead,” said Smith.

“It will be tough to face a team who has won twice at home, but we are ready to take them on.”

The following players are not eligible for team selection due to injury were Quintin Vorster (ankle), Dries Swanepoel (shoulder), Oupa Mohoje (knee), Jasper Wiese (shoulder), Lloyd Greeff (hamstring), Jacques du Toit (knee), Boan Venter (hip) and Jamba Ulengo (neck).

Cheetahs Team

15 Malcolm Jaer 14 William Small-Smith 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg 12 Nico Lee 11 Rabz Maxwane 10 Tian Schoeman 9 Tian Meyer (captain) 8 Daniel Maartens 7 Junior Pokomela 6 Gerhard Olivier 5 JP du Preez 4 Justin Basson 3 Aranos Coetzee 2 Joseph Dweba 1 Ox Nche.

Bench: 16 Reinach Venter 17 Charles Marais 18 Luan de Bruin 19 Sintu Manjezi 20 Walt Steenkamp 21 Abongile Nonkontwana 22 Rudy Paige 23 Louis Fouche.

African News Agency (ANA)