Kings need luck of the Irish

Massive PRO14 challenge awaits Bay team in Cork

Southern Kings captain JC Astle says his men are ready for Irish challenge
Southern Kings captain JC Astle says his men are ready for Irish challenge
Image: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images

A borrowed slice of the fabled luck of the Irish backed up by grit and guts will be needed if the Isuzu Southern Kings want to shock high-flying Munster in Cork on Friday.

Boosted by the return of five Ireland Six Nations stars, the form book suggests Munster will dispose of the Kings and entrench their position at the top of Conference A.

Having flown from the summer heat of Port Elizabeth to the chill air of an winter evening kickoff in Cork, the Kings are facing a massive test of character.

Not having their star fetcher CJ Velleman in the lineup, after he was banned for three matches by the PRO14 disciplinary committee, will also not help the Kings’ cause.

Impressive new Kings flyhalf Bader Pretorius will get his first starting berth against Munster. The 21-year-old Pretorius made his debut for the Kings from the bench in a 25-21 victory over Edinburgh Rugby last month.

The experienced Berton Klaasen will be on Pretorius’ outside, as the centre returns to the starting XV to pair up with Fijian Meli Rokoua in the midfield.

In the pack, loose-forward Stephan de Wit makes a return to the starting line-up in the place of the suspended Velleman at openside flanker.

The rest of the run-on side remains the same as the side that narrowly lost to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

It is nice and cold and the boys are getting a feel of what it will be like on Friday night
Kings captain JC Astle

“It is nice and cold and the boys are getting a feel of what it will be like on Friday night,” Kings captain JC Astle said.

“Munster are very clinical side and are top of the log. We are expecting a hard match from a clinical Irish team who like to enforce their pattern of play on you.

“They are on the top of their game at the moment and they are playing really well. Knowing some of the Munster players, we will know what to look for to possibly nullify their influence.

“We have had a few good games recently and we will try and improve on those showings. That will be the key focus for us.

“The Kings want a good start to the three matches we will play in Europe on this tour. We would like a good start and that will set the vibe for the remaining games.”

There are seven changes to the Munster side that defeated the Dragons three weeks ago.Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Niall Scannell, John Ryan and Billy Holland all return from Ireland international duty to start the clash.

Former Kings loose forward Chris Cloete makes his first appearance for Munster since sustaining a neck injury in December.

JJ Hanrahan has recovered from a hip injury sustained last month to take his place in the squad with Academy back-row forward Gavin Coombes also named among the replacements.

The teams:

Southern Kings: (Nos 15 to 9): Masixole Banda, Yaw Penxe, Meli Rokoua, Berton Klaasen, Bjorn Basson, Bader Pretorius, Stefan Ungerer. (Nos 1 to 8): Schalk Ferreira, Michael Willemse, De-Jay Terblanche, Andries van Schalkwyk, JC Astle (capt), Stephan De Wit, Martinus Burger, Ruaan Lerm. Replacements: (Nos 16 to 23): Alandre Van Rooyen, Alulutho Tshakweni, Pieter Scholtz, Stephan Greeff, Andisa Ntsila, Sarel Pretorius, Tertius Kruger, Ulrich Beyers.

Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Darren Sweetnam; Tyler Bleyendaal (capt), Neil Cronin; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Fineen Wycherley, Chris Cloete, Arno Botha. Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Liam O’Connor, Stephen Archer, Darren O’Shea, Gavin Coombes, Alby Mathewson, JJ Hanrahan, Dan Goggin.

Referee: Andrea Piardi (France).

The match will be shown live on SS1 at 9.30pm.