Boosted PE side ready to face Rebels
There will be plenty of Super Rugby history to be made when the Southern Kings get to grips with the Melbourne Rebels in what should be a tense Super Rugby showdown at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium tonight (kick-off 7.30pm).
The Kings will be hunting for their first backto-back wins in the competition, while the Rebels will be chasing an elusive first Super Rugby win on South African soil.
“It is good to know there is some history to be made, but our focus will be on ourselves and we believe we owe our crowd a good performance,” Kings head coach Deon Davids said.
“That will be our biggest driver. We just want to come out and play some very good rugby and we would also be happy to make history.”
Both teams will start the match in a confident mood after productive displays in their previous outings,
The Kings pulled off a stunning win over the Waratahs in Sydney, while the Rebels drew 9-9 in an ugly, tryless encounter with the Sharks in Durban.
The Durban draw was the first time in the Rebels’ history that they had picked up more than a bonus point on South African soil.
“We have looked at the Rebels and they compete when they don’t have the ball. For us it is going to be a dogfight in order to keep our momentum and to keep our ball,” Davids said.
“It is back to square one for us and starting all over in ensuring that we work for 80 minutes to get a good result.”
Kings skipper Lionel Cronje said the cohesiveness between the players and coaches was coming along nicely. “We set high standards and I think the growth in the team is getting to a point where we really can win games,” he said.
“It is really about being excited and grabbing opportunities and also being allowed to play the rugby we are playing.”
After his team’s stunning win over the Waratahs, Cronje promised the Kings fans more victories. “From here on it will be an upward curve and the Waratahs win is not going to be our last win. We will win plenty more games before the end of this competition. I can guarantee you that.”
Cronje praised the work being done by Kings attack coach David Williams and backline coach Vuyo Zangqa.
“I think David is very smart in and around the type of plays that we run. He is very positive and he wants us to express ourselves.
“Vuyo is really focusing on skilful ball-in-hand running lines we have to do. Our starter plays are exciting and are not just the stock, standard bash-it-up plays.
“Through the coaches allowing us to express ourselves, we in turn express in a way on the field that rewards the coaches who are sitting in the box watching us play,” Cronje said.
Like the Kings, the Rebels are also facing the axe when Super Rugby is reduced from 18 to 15 teams next year.
Rebels skipper Nic Stirzaker said leaving Durban with any points was a good thing.
“We had the opportunity to win it, we just couldn’t string too many phases together,” the halfback said. “When we did we looked quite good in the first half and showed we could split them – but credit to the Sharks, they were a tough side to grind down.”
Southern Kings: Masixole Banda, Wandile Mjekevu, Berton Klaasen, Luzuko Vulindlu, Makazole Mapimpi, Lionel Cronje (capt), Louis Schreuder, Andisa Ntsila, Tyler Paul, Chris Cloete, Wilhelm van der Sluys, Irne Herbst, Ross Geldenhuys, Martin Bezuidenhout, Justin Forwood. Replacements: Michael Willemse, Schalk van der Merwe, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Mzwanele Zito, Stefan Willemse, Johan Steyn, Stokkies Hanekom, Pieter-Steyn de Wet.
Melbourne Rebels: Reece Hodge, Sefa Naivalu, Tom English, Mitch Inman, Marika Koroibete, Ben Volavola, Nic Stirzaker (capt), Amanaki Mafi, Colby Fainga’a, Jake Schatz, Steve Cummins, Culum Retallick, Tyrel Lomax, Siliva Siliva, Fereti Sa’aga. Replacements: James Hanson, Toby Smith, Laurie Weeks, Dominic Day, Will Miller, Hugh Sinclair, Mick Snowden, Jackson Garden-Bachop. Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
The Super Rugby clash will be preceded by a curtain-raiser between Port Elizabeth clubs PE Police and PE Harlequins which kicks off at 4.45pm.