We look ahead to another exciting weekend of Guinness PRO14 action.
History will be made once again this weekend when South Africa hosts its first-ever Guinness PRO14 matches as the Southern Kings entertain Leinster in Port Elizabeth before the Toyota Cheetahs host Zebre in Bloemfontein.
Both South African teams will be looking to make a promising start as they play their first home games of the campaign after their opening tours of the UK and Ireland in Rounds 1 & 2.
Six teams enter in Round 3 with undefeated records with champions Scarlets joined by Leinster and Munster as on the only sides with maximum points from the first two rounds. Four teams who have won two from two reside in Conference B (Scarlets, Leinster, Ulster and Edinburgh) as the new Championship format begins to take shape.
What’s at Stake?
Leinster look to maintain their hot start to the season after wins against Dragons and Cardiff Blues but they will be up against a Southern Kings team eager to rebound from their losses in the opening rounds. Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will become the 40th venue to host a Championship fixture and a big crowd is expected to witness this first cross-hemisphere clash on South African soil.
Zebre will be the second European team to taste the action in South Africa when they take on the Toyota Cheetahs with both sides looking to pick their first wins of the season. The Scottish teams, Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh, will put their unbeaten records on the line when they face Cardiff Blues and Benetton Rugby, respectively. It’s a debut campaign for coaches at both clubs – Dave Rennie at Glasgow Warriors and Richard Cockerill at Edinburgh – and already they have shown that their playing philosophies can work in the Guinness PRO14.
In Wales, Ospreys will be keen to strike back against Munster after their loss in Glasgow last weekend. These teams last met in the Guinness PRO12 Semi-Final last May and Steve Tandy’s men will be to ensure they claw back some ground on their Conference A rivals. Bernard Jackman’s Dragons will host Connacht, one of his former clubs, as he aims to deliver a first win of the season at Rodney Parade where both teams should be able to take advantage of the fantastic new surface which was laid this summer.
One team is certain to lose their unbeaten record when Scarlets visit Kingspan Stadium with the champions going up against Les Kiss’ Ulster who have started strongly. Scarlets will arrive with some of the Guinness PRO14’s most impressive attacking players with Steff Evans, Johnny McNicholl and Gareth Davies all continuing on their sharp form that helped win the title in May. But the home-team dressing room contains the likes of Charles Piutau, Christian Lealiifano, Tommy Bowe, Jean Deysel and Marcell Coetzee so this promises to be an explosive affair from the off.
Ospreys v Munster
At Liberty Stadium, Swansea, 3.15pm.
Referee: Stuart Berry (SARU, 2nd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Dan Jones, Adam Jones (both WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Ray Wilton (WRU)
TMO: Tim Hayes (WRU)
Overall Guinness PRO14 head to head record:
Played 32, Ospreys won 15, Munster won 16 with 1 game drawn.
Did you know?
- Ospreys only victory in the last four rounds of the Guinness PRO14 was 22-13 against Zebre in round 1 in the only home game in that sequence.
- Ospreys have won just two of their last eight matches at Liberty Stadium against Irish provinces – over Connacht in January and Ulster in April.
- Munster’s solitary defeat in their last ten Guinness PRO14 fixtures was 22-46 in last year’s final to Scarlets at Aviva Stadium.
- Munster are in the midst of their best ever away record in the Championship having won on each of their last eight trips away from home since losing in Leinster in round 6 last season.
- Munster have lost just one of their last six fixtures against Ospreys: 17-21 in Cork in February 2016 whilst the Munstermen have been victorious on three of their last four visits to Liberty Stadium.
For more Opta statistics visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/powered-by-opta/