Connacht head cach Andy Friend has made five changes to his team to face the Toyota Cheetahs in the GUINNESS PRO14 in Bloemfontein on Saturday (kick-off 1pm local time/3pm Irish time).
Into the side comes hooker Tom McCartney, lock Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle and Robin Copeland in the back row, and winger Niyi Adeolokun. Connacht are aiming to back up their 31-14 bonus point win over the Isuzu Southern Kings last Sunday with a second triumph in South Africa.
The experienced McCartney will pack down with Denis Buckley and Conor Carey, while the 25-year-old Thornbury is set to start his first game since returning from the shoulder injury that he picked up in the home win over the Scarlets in round 4.
Copeland slots back in at number 8 and Boyle, at blindside flanker, will line up alongside captain Jarrad Butler. Adeolokun, the only change in the back-line, combines with Matt Healy, a try scorer on his return against the Kings, and Tiernan O’Halloran in the back-three.
Andy Friend, who fields the same centre and half-back pairings from last weekend, said: “The win against the Kings last week was hugely important for the morale among the group and it sets us up for the challenge of taking on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
“The players have worked really hard in training over the two weeks on tour. They’ve been hugely challenged in the intensity and physicality that we have worked on and they’ve responded really well. Coming over here we set ourselves the target of two wins and that firmly remains our goal.”
The Australian added: “We’ll need a step up in intensity and execution from where we were last weekend to challenge the Cheetahs. They are a competitive side who are well able to throw the ball around and open teams up and the boys are well aware of that. But we will continue to focus on our game and constantly improving ourselves and delivering a result.”
CONNACHT (v Toyota Cheetahs): Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Jarrad Butler (capt), Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, James Cannon, Colby Fainga’a, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Cian Kelleher.