With their confidence soaring at an all-time high the resurgent Southern Kings will bid to crush a struggling Brumbies outfit at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium tonight.
If the in-form Kings pull off another win, it will be their fourth Super Rugby win on the bounce and set a new record for the local franchise. Kings coach Deon Davids says although his team have been hit by injuries to key players Chris Cloete (loose forward), Masixole Banda (fullback) and Wilhelm van der der Sluys (lock) their replacements are eager to shine.
Lubabalo “Giant” Mtyanda replaces Van der Sluys, Chrysander Botha takes over from Banda and Stefan Willemse slots in for Cloete. In stark contrast to the golden run of form being enjoyed by the Kings, the Brumbies arrived in South Africa having lost their past four matches.
Despite the recent losses, the Brumbies are top of the Australian conference despite only winning three of their 10 matches. Stirred by their recent success, 22 000 fans turned up at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium last week to watch the Kings beat the Sharks and another big crowd is expected tonight. In the Sharks game, the Kings made history by beating a South African franchise for the first time and their captain Lionel Cronje wants to make sure his team keep their feet on the ground and stay focused.
“We have got to really put teams under pressure at home with the support we have,” Cronje said. “That is something we must keep on doing and we just have to keep focused now.” Davids is expecting a tough encounter against the Brumbies. “We have been looking at our execution and where opportunities may be against the Brumbies. “The Kings will have to work very hard to get over that advantage line, to maintain momentum and to hold on to the ball. “There is a lot of experience and there are strong, physical guys in their side. They are dangerous attackers also, so it will be a good challenge.”
Brumbies hooker Josh Mann-Rea said he had his eyes focused on set-piece dominance as the Australians prepare for tonight’s clash. “Our set piece is a big part of our game,” he said. “They are going to come at us at scrum and line out time so, as a forward pack, we have just got to make sure that the set piece is run very well and we deliver some good ball for the backs. “We have lost four in a row now so this week is a must-win for us to stay on top of the Australian conference.” “The Kings have a lot of confidence at the moment. They have won the last three and they are at home this weekend so they have a lot to play for,” Mann-Rea said.
The Super Rugby clash will be preceded by a curtain-raiser between the EP Kings and Boland Cavaliers, who will be taking each other on in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge. Earlier in the day there will be seven Meyer Sauerman Tournament U16 and U18 matches ahead of selection of the Eastern Province Grant Khomo and Craven Week teams.
Gates open from 11am for the B and C fields’ Meyer Sauerman matches, with the rest of the gates opening at 4pm ahead of the 4:45pm start for the EP Kings versus Boland clash.
Southern Kings: Chrysander Botha, Alshaun Bock, Berton Klaasen, Luzuko Vulindlu, Makazole Mapimpi, Lionel Cronje (capt), Louis Schreuder, Andisa Ntsila, Tyler Paul, Stefan Willemse, Lubabalo Mtyanda, Irne Herbst, Ross Geldenhuys, Martin Bezuidenhout, Schalk van der Merwe. Replacements: Kurt Haupt, Chris Heiberg, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Mzwanele Zito, Thembelani Bholi, Johan Steyn, Pieter-Steyn de Wet, Stokkies Hanekom.
Brumbies: Tom Banks, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Kyle Godwin, Aidan Toua, Wharenui Hawera, Joe Powell, Jordan Smiler, Chris Alcock, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, Josh Mann-Rea, Ben Alexander. Replacements: Robbie Abel, Nic Mayhew, Les Leuluaialii-Makin, Blake Enever, Jarrad Butler, De Wet Roos, Andrew Muirhead, Andrew Smith. Referee: Jaco Peyper Kick-off: 7:30pm