Whitehead gets top marks from coach Kempson

SOUTHERN Kings caretaker head coach Robbi Kempson has heaped praise on flyhalf George Whitehead ahead of his team's Super Rugby friendly this weekend.

The side face the Lions at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 5pm).

Kempson was speaking after his team went down 36-21 to the Cheetahs in an entertaining opening match of the season on Saturday.

"What a pleasure to have George back to where he was," Kempson said after the pivot played a key role as the Kings showed off their newfound attacking qualities against a powerful Cheetahs.

"George was free-flowing and I think he was the best flyhalf on show from both sides. That was really good to see."

Considering that the highly rated Johan Goosen and Elgar Watts lined up against Whitehead on Saturday, Kempson was clearly impressed by the showing of his player, who grew in confidence as the game progressed.

Whitehead, who was forced to play second fiddle to Demetri Catrakilis when the Kings played Super Rugby last season, was cool and calculating against a formidable Cheetahs lineup.

The Kings, who ran in three tries against the Cheetahs, look set to play a more attacking brand of rugby this season.

That means the role of Whitehead and scrumhalf Jaco Grobler will be crucial in its implementation.

Coaches Kempson, Carlos Spencer (backline) and Tiger Mangweni (defence) put their team through their paces yesterday.

But centre Ronnie Cooke, who took a bump on his hip against the Cheetahs, sat out the session to receive treatment on the sidelines.

Lock Steven Sykes took a knock on his knee during training, but is expected to be fit for Saturday's showdown. Hooker Albe de Swardt is suffering from a rib injury.

The Kings, who are expected to name their side to face the Lions today, might be contemplating some changes to the starting lineup.

Among the forwards, Lizo Gqoboka and Charl du Plessis are likely to return for what promises to be a fiery showdown against a Lions outfit who beat the Kings in last year's Super Rugby double-header relegation showdown.

Meanwhile, the Lions won both their warm-up matches against the Leopards and a mixed NWU-Pukke and Leopards outfit at Barnard Stadium in Kempton Park at the weekend.

In the main match, the Lions ran in eight tries to secure a runaway 52-14 win over the mixed side.

Pumas loan centre Stefan Watermeyer put in a brilliant performance, scoring a hat-trick on his Lions debut.

He will obviously be a dangerman for the Kings.

In another match, the Lions edged the Leopards 31-24 in a Vodacom Cup warm-up game.