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Johnston handed first Pro14 start at out-half as Bleyendaal captains Munster

Johann van Graan has named his team for Sunday’s Pro14 clash against the Cheetahs.

BILL JOHNSTON WILL have the opportunity to showcase his burgeoning potential as a playmaking out-half when he makes his first Guinness Pro14 start for Munster against the Cheetahs on Sunday afternoon.

The 21-year-old is named to start in Johann van Graan’s side for the round eight clash in Bloemfontein [KO 2.45pm, eir Sport/Premier Sport], as Munster seek their first away win of the campaign.

Bill Johnston Johnston starts for Munster on Sunday. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

With Johnston handed the reins in the pivot position, Tyler Bleyendaal makes his long-awaited return from injury at inside centre, with the Kiwi set to captain the southern province. 

Bleyendaal will make his first senior appearance in eight months at the Toyota Stadium after a protracted spell on the sidelines following neck surgery, and his return is a welcome boost for Munster.

Without as many as 24 players through international duty and injuries, van Graan’s resources have been stretched but the Munster head coach has been able to name the likes of Mike Haley, Alby Mathewson, Jean Kleyn and Chris Cloete in his starting XV.

Sammy Arnold — named in Ireland’s November internationals squad — has passed the return to play protocols to partner Bleyendaal in midfield as the centre looks to get more minutes under his belt with a view to making his Ireland debut later this month.

Overall, there are nine changes to the side that defeated Glasgow Warriors in dramatic fashion last week, with four of those alterations coming in the backline.

Academy winger Shane Daly is handed another opportunity to impress while Alex Wootton is named on the opposite flank, with Haley continuing at fullback.

Up front, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer, Darren O’Shea and Arno Botha all come into the pack while Fineen Wycherley — named at blindside — is in line for his first Pro14 start.

Academy players Sean O’Connor and Gavin Coombes are named among the replacements, with Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley and last week’s matchwinner Rory Scannell also held in reserve. 

Munster currently sit third in Conference A but are yet to register a victory on the road this season, with all four of their Pro14 wins coming in Cork or Limerick. 

The Cheetahs, meanwhile, are bottom of the division with just one win from seven outings.

Munster:

15. Mike Haley
14. Shane Daly
13. Sammy Arnold
12. Tyler Bleyendaal (captain)
11. Alex Wootton
10. Bill Johnston
9. Alby Mathewson

1. James Cronin
2. Kevin O’Byrne
3. Stephen Archer
4. Jean Kleyn
5. Darren O’Shea
6. Fineen Wycherley
7. Chris Cloete
8. Arno Botha.

Replacements:

16. Mike Sherry
17. Jeremy Loughman
18. John Ryan
19. Sean O’Connor
20. Gavin Coombes
21. Duncan Williams
22. Ian Keatley
23. Rory Scannell. 

Cheetahs:

15. Rhyno Smith
14. William Small-Smith
13. Benhard Janse van Rensburg
12. Nico Lee
11. Rabz Maxwane
10. Tian Schoeman
9. Shaun Venter (captain)

1 Ox Nche 
2 Joseph Dweba 
3 Aranos Coetzee 
4 Walt Steenkamp
5 JP du Preez
6 Gerhard Olivier
7 Junior Pokamela 
8 Aidon Davis.

Replacements:

16. Reinach Venter
17. Charles Marais
18. Erich de Jager
19. Sinthu Manjezi/Justin Basson
20. Daniel Maartens
21. Abongile Nonkontwana
22. Tian Meyer
23. Louis Fouche. 

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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