Ricochet News

VIDEO: Southern Kings look to make one last statement against Cheetahs on Friday

By Marc Jacobson - Jul 12, 2017
VIDEO: Southern Kings look to make one last statement against Cheetahs on Friday

The Southern Kings are set to play their last ever Super Rugby encounter against the Toyota Cheetahs at the NMB Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday night (kick-off 19:00).

Fittingly, both the Cheetahs and Kings are the two announced teams being cut from the 2018 Super Rugby competition, in a tournament revamp reduction from 18 to 15 teams, two of which being South African.

For this, both sides are expecting to come out firing in all cylinders as a token to their last showcase in the southern hemisphere competition. Both sides are thereafter linked to join the Pro12, an amalgamated tournament involving teams from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy in the north; which begins in September.

Speaking to media after their practise on the NMB Stadium B-field on Wednesday, Coach Deon Davids says they are expecting a tough Cheetahs onslaught come Friday night.

“The Cheetahs have played some really good rugby this season, they also like to play with ball-in-hand and use the width of the field,” said Davids.

“They have a strong scrum and a good maul; they also have some strong runners in their midfield and some exciting outside backs, so I don’t think they will deviate much in terms of their game plan.”

“I think it will be a game with a high intensity, because I think they are also looking to prepare for the Currie Cup and looking to build toward the next competition [probable Pro12 entry].”

The high-flying and highly spoken-about Kings, who have just resonated from two away wins, against the Jaguares 31-30 in Argentina two weeks ago, followed by their historical first away win against a fellow SA side; beating the Vodacom Bulls by the exact same margin (31-30) last weekend, have proved many doubted critics wrong this season.

Apart from their two most recent aforementioned wins, earlier in the season they beat the Sunwolves 37-23 in Singapore, beat 2014 Super Rugby Champs, the Waratahs 26-24 in Sydney, followed by a 44-3 thrashing over the Rebels and then a historic first victory over another SA side, toppling the Sharks 35-32.

“Finally we will get some rest after this long season, but there are mixed feelings. We made some special memories and special friends throughout this year and as a team we have really grown and learned a lot from each other,” Davids said.

“We have set some good things in place at the franchise, and for all that just to come to an end now, with some players going in their own direction, is a bit of a low point, but life goes on and we can still look forward to this game and give it our all,” Davids added emotionally.

The Kings have built from scratch since only emerging from ashes in January 2016, and with last year merely laying their foundation; the Eastern Cape side had rose to the occasion in 2017, and will convincingly head the Bulls and Cheetahs on the overall Super Rugby log, regardless of what happens this weekend.

Despite this, they and the Cheetahs will see the Super Rugby axe, as a part of administrational decision-making on SA Rugby’s part. Their participation in the Pro12 has not yet been confirmed, although very likely, and Davids still stated that they have not yet been informed much on what will happen after Friday’s game.

“From our side, we can just put a lot into the game and we will come together to do all our medical assessments in terms of where our players stand, and then they will disperse into their different directions.”

“In that meantime, we will just be busy working with the squad and managing the guys who will take over in the Currie Cup going forward, but until we get formal information on what the approaches will be, that’s all we in for now,” Davids concluded.

Part of the Kings’ player dispersal are that team pinnacles, Lionel Cronje (Toyota Verblitz), Louis Schreuder and Tyler Paul (Sharks), Irne Herbst (Treviso), Schalk van der Merwe (Ulster), Makazole Mapimpi (Cheetahs) and Chris Cloete (Munster), will depart of their services to the side after their clash against the Cheetahs.

This while, Thembelani Bholi, Stefan Ungerer, Neil Maritz and Cameron Lindsay are linked to join the Pumas. This leaves the side rather bare and diluted ahead of their hopeful Pro12 entry, which may force Davids to re-build his side once more.

The Kings would then resultantly be forced to window-dress their entire squad for the third time in the space of four years, since entering and exiting Super Rugby in 2013, before entering again in 2016 and exiting again after Friday’s match.

“Personally I think it’s been a great season, the guys have bought into our culture, the guys have bought into everything we wanted to do, and we have accomplished a lot of our goals that we set for ourselves,” Kings’ captain, Lionel Cronje commented after practice on Wednesday.

“There was a lot emotions involved in this last training camp, it is what it is [leaving Super Rugby], but we are really looking forward to this weekend’s last match.”

“We will put a lot of emphasis on the team to enjoy themselves more and remain more positive out on the field on Friday night, which has been our motto throughout the whole season” Cronje added.

The Southern Kings have shook up just one change to the line-up since their stellar win over the Bulls last Saturday, with Irne Herbst dropping out due to injury, replaced by Wilhelm van der Sluys, who fills that void at lock.

Giant Mtyanda, who produced a man-of-the-match performance last week, just makes a positional switch from no.5 to no.4 lock for this weekend.

The Southern Kings team to take on the Toyota Cheetahs: 

15.          Malcolm Jaer

14.          Wandile Mjekevu

13.          Berton Klaasen

12.          Luzuko Vulindlu

11.          Makazole Mapimpi

10.          Lionel Cronje (capt)

9.            Louis Schreuder

8.            Andisa Ntsila

7.            Tyler Paul

6.            Chris Cloete

5.            Wilhelm van der Sluys

4.            Lubabalo Mtyanda

3.            Ross Geldenhuys

2.            Michael Willemse

1.            Mzamo Majola

Replacements:16. Martin Bezuidenhout, 17. Schalk Ferreira, 18. Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19. Irne Herbst/Mzwanele Zito, 20. Thembelani Bholi, 21. Rudi van Rooyen, 22. Masixole Banda, 23. Waylon Murray/Yaw Penxe.

ImageLionel Cronje addressing media at the NMB Stadium B-Field on Wednesday.

Watch to hear what else Coach Deon Davids and Captain Lionel Cronje had to say in their post-practice presser on Wednesday