Ready to rumble

Confident Kings all fired up for today’s encounter with Lions

After giving the Sharks a big fright last week, the Southern Kings will believe anything is possible when they face the Lions at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium today (kick-off 3.05pm).

Sunk by a last-gasp penalty in Durban, the Kings will start their fifth match desperate to show they belong in top-flight rugby.

“I think the forwards have been doing well and have fronted up in the opening four games,” burly Kings lock Irne Herbst said.

“The Sharks have a good pack and I think we overpowered them in some stages of the game last week. Now we want to build on that against a Lions team who also have a good pack.

“Hopefully we will front up and it will be a good game. It is lekker to have a lock pairing playing together for a few games and we want to build on this.

“The Lions have a good pedigree and strong all-round team who play with the ball. I don’t think they have stars, but they all know their roles, so I think it will be a good, fast game.”

Herbst will pack down with Wilhelm van der Sluys at lock today.

Though nothing has been confirmed, it would appear the Kings could fall victim to a cull when the size of the league is reduced next year.

It seems, however, that speculation about their future at the top level has galvanised the team.

“We don’t know where we are going after Super Rugby so everyone is keen to play and make a difference. The team have had a good week of preparation for this game, so we will be going into it with confidence,” Herbst said.

The Lions, aware of how the Sharks had to sweat for their narrow victory, will be prepared for a fight.

The Kings have never beaten South African opposition in Super Rugby and they will have another opportunity to end that jinx today.

It will, however, not be easy for the Kings against last year’s beaten Super Rugby finalists, who will arrive in Port Elizabeth brimming with confidence after trashing the Reds 44-14 in their last outing at Ellis Park.

Kings head coach Deon Davids has made three changes to his starting line-up that narrowly went down 17-19 to the Sharks .

An injury to Schalk Ferreira has given an opportunity for a starting berth for the experienced Schalk van der Merwe at loosehead prop.

Hooker Kurt Haupt will also get a chance to start ahead of Michael Willemse, who began in the No 2 jersey in the past four matches.

Malcolm Jaer makes a return to the team, starting at fullback after it was decided to give Masixole Banda a break.

Davids said: “We need to step up because we are playing one of the best sides in the competition this weekend. The Lions are a very talented side, no matter who they field, and they play the game at a massively high tempo.

“The Kings need to be right up there. We need to be switched on from the start. This is a game that we need to take to them. We will give it everything.”

After last week’s confidence-boosting performance, Davids said self-belief in the team was high.

The will be pre- and post-match entertainment at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium today. Gates open at 1pm and will close at 7pm. Today’s teams: Southern Kings: Malcolm Jaer, Makazole Mapimpi, Berton Klaasen, Waylon Murray, Alshaun Bock, Lionel Cronje (capt), Louis Schreuder, Ruan Lerm, Andisa Ntsila, Chris Cloete, Wilhelm van der Sluys, Irne Herbst, Ross Geldenhuys, Kurt Haupt, Schalk van der Merwe. Replacements: Michael Willemse, Chris Heiberg, Justin Forwood, Tyler Paul, Stefan Willemse, Johan Steyn, Pieter-Steyn de Wet, Luzuko Vulindlu. Lions: Andries Coetzee, Madosh Tambwe, Harold Vorster, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Francois de Klerk, Warren Whiteley (captain), Ruan Ackermann, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Andries Ferreira, Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx, Jacques van Rooyen. Replacements: Armand van der Merwe, Sithembiso Sithole, Hencus van Wyk, Lourens Erasmus, Albertus Smith, Dillon Smit. Referee: Quinton Immelman.

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