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Ospreys boosted as Lydiate makes return to action; CHEETAHS v OSPREYS TOYOTA STADIUM 4.30pm.

DAN Lydiate is poised to make his return to action when the Ospreys take on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein today.

The chop-tackling flanker has been ravaged by injury in recent seasons but has the final few games to stake a claim for Warren Gatland's World Cup squad.

But it's also a pivotal time of the year for the Ospreys, who simply must win their final three games to keep their slim hopes of making the playoffs alive.

Lydiate's return from his most recent lay-off - five months in total with an elbow problem - is a welcome boost for the region, who are without the injured George North, Alun Wyn Jones and Scott Williams.

Allen Clarke has opted for the same starting XV that beat the Dragons two weeks ago, meaning Justin Tipuric leads the team from the flank.

"With three games left it's a simple equation for us. We know what the challenge is over the last three rounds of the regular season and our focus is on ourselves, and what we can control," said Ospreys boss Clarke.

"The Cheetahs are a quality team and a formidable force at home. They are particularly dangerous in open field play with the ability to strike from deep.

"Having said that there's a real buzz amongst the squad and a clear understanding of what we need to do to impose our game on the opposition."

Wing Hanno Dirksen makes his 100th PRO14 appearance, with James King making his 150th.

No.8 Dan Baker, who hasn't played in over 18 months after suffering a serious knee injury has travelled to South Africa but isn't involved against the Cheetahs.

Captain Shaun Venter and his side have been preparing for warm welcome for the Ospreys, with the Cheetahs aiming to win all of the remaining matches at home.

"We are a lot better than at the beginning of the season and our goal is to win all three matches at home," said Venter.

"We want to make the supporters proud."

Cheetahs: Malcolm Jaer; William Small-Smith, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Dries Swanepoel, Rabz Maxwane; Tian Schoeman, Shaun Venter (C); Charles Marais, Joseph Dweba, Luan de Bruin; Sintu Menjezi, Walt Steenkamp; Gerhard Olivier, Abongile Nonkontwana, Henco Venter. Reps: Marnus van der Merwe, Aranos Coetzee, Reinach Venter, JP du Preez, Jasper Wiese, Justin Basson, Rudy Paige, Louis Fouche.

Ospreys: Dan Evans; Hanno Dirksen, Cory Allen, Owen Watkin, Keelan Giles; Luke Price, Aled Davies; Nicky Smith, Scott Baldwin, Tom Botha; Adam Beard, Bradley Davies; Olly Cracknell, Justin Tipuric (C), James King. Reps: Scott Otten, Rhodri Jones, Ma'afu Fia, Dan Lydiate, Sam Cross, Matthew Aubrey, Sam Davies, Luke Morgan. Referee: John Lacey (Ire).

| OSPREYS centre Joe Thomas has headed to New Zealand to join Otorohanga club in the Waikato Premier Club Rugby competition.

The 23-year-old's contract was due to end at the end of the season, but Thomas is heading Down Under this weekend for his new challenge.

CAPTION(S):

Dan Lydiate is back in the Ospreys' back row for the clash in Bloemfontein

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 6, 2019
Words:502
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