Kings need unified retract-and-rapture response

BY MARC JACOBSON - MAY 5, 2016

The Southern Kings find themselves back-tracked to the 2013 Super Rugby campaign when they were hammered by the Waratahs 72-10 on their home ground. The following week they managed to sprout out of their buried ditch to beat New Zealand’s Highlanders 34-27.

In the great scheme of context, they find themselves sailing a similar boat after getting thumped 73-26 by the Jaguares last week. Come this weekend they face New Zealand’s Blues – their best bet on beating a New Zealand side, as it is their least on-form team, just like the Highlanders were in 2013. The Kings’ job, performance and form aside, is to emulate that same die-hard spirit they had in numerous encounters this season and to imbue a redeeming victory this Saturday.

After all, they will make South Africa proud, not just themselves – as to this date, New Zealand sides have a 100% winning rate in the African homeland this season so far.

The Blues are, however, no walkover - they come off consecutive victories over the Sharks and Rebels; while the Kings conceded three consecutive losses against the Bulls, Lions and Jaguares respectively. This is why form should play no alleviating factor in the minds of the PE-based side.

Team work is key. If Steven Sykes can play his physical role and adopt his line-out expertise, while Edgar Marutlulle can make his unexpected bashing breaks with a great tackle-tally count – partnered with the loose forwards in Chris Chloete and CJ Velleman making steals at ruck time, with ball-bashing carries and feisty tackling; the forwards will without a doubt rattle the New Zealand outfit.

On the other end, if Shane Gates can scramble like he usually does on defence with fine envisioned line-breaks, while Lukhanyo Am and Luzuko Vulindlu can streak on the flank outfield with quick-gasp running in broken play and obtaining stimulating defense; the team as a whole can prosper.

It is up to them as a team to strive for a unified formation of play – they have the ability, they just need the heart. Heavy rain and wind is expected for Saturday’s clash and this will also be to the Kings’ advantage as it will steer to a more forward-inclined game, which is where their strength lies as opposed to the very expansive New Zealand side.

The Kings need to be way more organized on defence in contrast to the Jaguares loss last week, while at the same time committing for 80 minutes. If they get that right, the match outcome will be determined by penalty eras and setpiece dominance, which is where the Kings are normally more polished. 

STATS AND FACTS
– The Port Elizabeth-based side have lost their last three games against opponents from New Zealand, conceding 157 points in the process.
– The Kings conceded a team record 73 points in their most recent fixture against the Jaguares.
– The Blues have won only one of their last 26 matches away from home and haven’t won in South Africa since round three of 2012.
– The Blues are the only team yet to score a try after forcing a turnover from the opposition so far this season, while the Kings have done so seven times.
– The Kings are the only South African team with more than one player having won more than 10 turnovers so far this season (CJ Velleman 17, Chris Cloete 12).
Source: Opta