Praise for Kings' backline

George Byron

PRAISE from an unlikely quarter has come for the Southern Kings as they make final preparations for their Super Rugby friendly against the Stormers at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium tomorrow (kick-off 7pm).

Tough-talking Lions coach Johan Ackermann says he could sense the excitement whenever the Kings back division ran the ball against his team last week.

"I was very impressed with the Kings backline and could see the touch of their coach Carlos Spencer coming through," Ackermann said after his team beat the Kings 19-12.

"The Kings threw the ball around nicely and you could see the guys were prepared to take a chance. A few times it did not come off because they threw the ball into touch, but you could sense the excitement.

"The Kings have young players and they are where we were last year. They just want to play and that makes them good.

"They broke our line and their scrumhalf, Jaco Grobler, was very busy and made things difficult for us around the ruck," Ackermann said.

Kings teen flyer Sergeal Petersen scored a try against the Lions while fullback Siviwe "Shakes" Soyizwapi also impressed with his pace on attack.

Kings coach Robbi Kempson said his team would face their biggest test of the season tomorrow.

"No offence to the other teams we have played, but I think the Stormers are a different kettle of fish completely.

"This is our third game in a row and as you can see we have had a few injuries. The Stormers are a thoroughly professional outfit with depth that most provinces don't have. This will be an exceptionally competitive game for us," Kempson said.

Adding extra spice to the clash is the inclusion of former Kings stars Demetri Catrakilis and Scott van Breda in a star-studded Stormers lineup led by Schalk Burger.

Kempson said Spencer had decided to go in with a few variations in the backline.

"Carlos wants to see what he has got out there. He has seen the other players in the initial games and he is very happy with the way they went and their progress."

The Stormers have injury problems to consider and centre Juan de Jongh has been ruled out for a minimum of six weeks due to a torn meniscus.

Bok skipper Jean de Villiers has also been omitted after taking a knock on the ear.

"It's unfortunate to lose Juan and it places a bit of pressure on our backline reserves because we have also lost Cheslin Kolbe for the first part of the season," Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said.

On the positive side for the Stormers, former Springbok utility back Jaco Taute will make his first start after nearly a year out following knee ligament damage.

The curtain-raiser is between Spring Rose and Police, starting at 4.30pm.