The Kings will target Saturday's clash against Zebre in Port Elizabeth for their first Pro14 win, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
KINGS vs ZEBRE
While a match between the Kings and Zebre is unlikely to increase viewership levels, the Eastern Cape franchise won't have a better opportunity to record their first win than against the Italian club at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
The hosts boast the worst attacking stats in the competition. In three matches, they’ve made just 1,177 running metres from 373 carries, completed 507 passes, scored four tries and registered just 30 points.
This round-four match-up presents the Kings with a chance to improve in that department against a Zebre defence that conceded 54 points and eight tries against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last weekend.
The Kings should create enough scoring opportunities on Saturday, but whether they win the match will depend on how many of them are converted into points.
Coach Deon Davids has made one change to the team that lost 31-10 to Leinster, bringing in Pieter-Steyn de Wet at flyhalf ahead of Oliver Zono. De Wet is a sharpshooter off the kicking-tee and his accuracy at goal could determine the outcome of the game.
Kings lock Dries van Schalkwyk will go up against his former teammates for the first time. The 32-year-old played for Zebre between 2012 and 2017 and earned 94 caps for the club.
Zebre have made three changes to their starting XV, with Matteo Minozzi replacing Ciaran Gaffney at fullback, centre Tommaso Boni coming in for Gabriele Di Giulio, and Roberto Tenga preferred at tighthead prop ahead of veteran Dario Chistolini.
Kings – 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Sibusiso Sithole, 10 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 9 Rudi van Rooyen, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Victor Sekekete, 6 Khaya Majola, 5 Dries van Schalkwyk, 4 Stephen Greeff, 3 Luvuyo Pupuma, 2 Michael Willemse (c), 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Martin Dreyer, 19 Bobby de Wee, 20 Freddy Ngoza, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Oliver Zono, 23 Jacques Nel.
Zebre –15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Giulio Bisegni, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello (c), 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Giovanni Licata, 6 Johan Meyer, 5 George Biagi, 4 David Sisi, 3 Roberto Tenga, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Subs: 16 Sami Panico, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Jacopo Sarto, 20 Derick Minnie, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Serafin Bordoli, 23 Ciaran Gaffney.
CHEETAHS vs LEINSTER
Leinster will go into this match as favourites, despite the Cheetahs' 54-39 win against Zebre in Bloemfontein last weekend.
Both sides boast similar attacking statistics, although the Irish club has chalked up three wins on the trot compared to the two defeats and one victory for the men from the Free State.
The difference lies in defence. While Leinster have scored the second most points (107, behind the Scarlets’ 118), they have also conceded the fewest (35).
The visitors have been clinical off turnover ball and if the Cheetahs’ high-ball handling error-rate persists, Leinster could easily wrap a bonus-point win on their first trip to Bloemfontein. The Cheetahs have to cut down on their mistakes to stay in the contest, especially in the first half.
Leinster captain Isa Nacewa and Jamison Gibson-Park return to the starting lineup, after the Kiwi duo were allowed to enter South Africa at the second time of asking (they were initially denied entry because they did not have visas).
The Cheetahs have been boosted by the inclusion of No 8 Oupa Mohoje, prop Charles Marais, scrumhalf Tian Meyer and wing Rosko Specman.
Cheetahs – 15 Sergeal Petersen, 14 Rosco Speckman, 13 Francois Venter, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Ernst Stapelberg, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Oupa Mohoje, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Nico Lee, 23 Luther Obi.
Leinster – 15 Joey Carbery, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Noel Reid, 12 Isa Nacewa (c), 11 Barry Daly, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Jordi Murphy, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Bent, 2 James Tracy, 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Rhys Ruddock, 20 Max Deegan, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Cathal Marsh, 23 Rory O’Loughlin.
It will be a top-of-the-table clash in Conference A when the Glasgow Warriors host Munster at the Scotstoun Stadium. Both sides are on a three-match winning streak but Munster are in first position with 14 log points, one adrift of the Warriors.
The Dragons travel to Belfast, where they will take on Ulster. The teams have had contrasting fortunes, with the Irish club going three from three, and the Welshmen suffering two defeats.
The winless Cardiff Blues go in search of a maiden victory this season against Connacht, who have not been at their best either, despite beating the Kings.
Edinburgh will be aiming to return to winning ways, but that won't be easy against defending champions, the Scarlets, in Llanelli.
The Ospreys will be wary of Treviso when they square off, after the Italian club stunned Edinburgh last week.
Photo: Harry Trump/Getty Images
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