Kings coach ready for high pace set by Lions

George Byron

SOUTHERN Kings caretaker head coach Robbi Kempson is expecting a high tempo clash when his team face the Lions in a potentially explosive Super Rugby friendly at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 5pm).

The arch-rivals, who locked horns in two tightly contested Super Rugby promotion matches at the end of last season, will be keen to prove a point in this early-season showdown.

“The Lions are a very different test from what the Cheetahs presented last week and the tempo of the game will be much higher because they tend to do things in explosive spurts,” Kempson said. “Also, the way the Lions scrum will be different from the Cheetahs. In many ways the Lions are a different kettle of fish and they are clearly very ambitious about the Super Rugby season ahead of them.

“From our side you will not see much difference from the way we attack or defend.

“I think our defence was pretty decent against the Cheetahs.”

Though the Kings looked promising on attack when they lost 36-21 to the Cheetahs last week, Kempson has admitted they were planning to up their game among the forwards.

“We were not happy about the forward performance and we make no bones about that.”

The Kings coaching staff drilled the forwards in sweltering heat at the scrum machine this week in a bid to ensure that they are more competitive at scrum time.

Saturday’s game against the Lions is the second of three Super Rugby friendlies for the Kings, who round off their pre- season activity with a match against the Stormers at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Friday next week. There is still some doubt whether explosive Kings centre Ronnie Cooke, who scored a try against the Cheetahs, will be fit to take his place in the team.

Cooke, who took a knock on the hip in the game, will have a fitness test later this week. If he fails his test, Dwayne Jenner will come in as outside centre.

“I think we could have put a lot more pressure on the Cheetahs in the scrums than we did. Against the Cheetahs we were under pressure for the majority of our scrums,” Kempson said.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann is expected to make sweeping changes to his team that beat a Leopards-Pukke team at the weekend.

“We have eight players who didn’t feature last week who will play this week,” he said about the group that includes captain Warren Whiteley, former captain Franco van der Merwe, Jaco Kriel, Julian Redelinghuys, Marnitz Boshoff, Andries Coetzee and Michael Bondesio.

The coach expects the intensity to lift in his team’s remaining warm-up matches against the Kings and the Sharks.

The EP Kings Vodacom Cup side will play a friendly against Despatch as a curtain-raiser (2.30pm) to the Kings versus Lions match on Saturday.

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