Defence key for Kings

The Kings need to considerably improve their defence if they are to compete against the Chiefs in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

The Kings enjoyed a bye last weekend, but there’s no doubt they would have spent plenty of time addressing the shortcomings that had been identified from their opening Super Rugby clash against the Sharks.

Although the Kings displayed some fighting spirit in the first half, they faded after the break and ultimately conceded six tries in a 43-8 defeat. The most worrying statistic from that clash would surely have been the fact they missed 27 tackles, which allowed the Sharks to cruise to a bonus-point victory.

During their debut Super Rugby season in 2013, the Kings ensured a strong defence was the foundation of their game, with defence guru Omar Mouneimne doing wonders alongside coach Alan Solomons.

The Kings are now a completely new-look squad with a different set of coaches, but the players have been working closely with former Stormers defence coach Jacques Nienaber, who is part of SA Rugby's coaching mobi-unit, and they will desperately be hoping to implement the defensive principles he would have been preaching.

The Chiefs have made an up and down start to the season, but they are ranked third in terms of clean breaks and No 1 when it comes to their offload count, which forms a key part of their ball in-hand approach.

If the Kings are unable to shore up their defence, the Chiefs are a side that will cut them apart, and another one-sided scoreline could be on the cards at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

Kings coach Deon Davids acknowledged as much ahead of Saturday’s match: ‘From a defensive point of view we are going to have to ensure we get quickly into the right positions and then we need to make positive tackles. If you play against a team with the mentality to play with quick ball, which the Chiefs do, and from everywhere on the field, then you are going to be punished.’

Captain Steven Sykes also identified that they had committed too many numbers at ruck-time against the Sharks, and so it’s clear that defence has been a key area of focus for the Kings since their season opener.

One positive for the Kings was their solid showing at the set pieces, and if they can get the better of the Chiefs in this area of the game, they could find the means to limit the damage.

Davids has also had the advantage of picking from a fully-fit squad that has been bolstered by the return of Stefan Watermeyer, Louis Fouché and Jacobie Adriaanse.

The Kings will have home-ground advantage and will be playing a Chiefs side that only arrived in South Africa on Tuesday, but the Kiwis should still prove to be too strong for the Port Elizabeth-based side.

Overall: Chiefs 1, Kings 0
In Port Elizabeth: Chiefs 1, Kings 0

– This will be just the second meeting between these teams after the Chiefs defeated the Kings 35-24 in 2013.
– The Kings are hunting for their first win since round 13 of their debut season, although two of their three wins have come when playing at home.
– The Chiefs have won seven and drawn two of their last 12 matches in South Africa. They’ll be aiming to avoid consecutive defeats in South Africa for the first time since 2008.
– The Chiefs have averaged 15 offloads per game so far this season, the most of any team and triple the Kings’ average (five).
– Kings flanker CJ Velleman has won four turnovers this season, the equal fifth most in the competition despite his side only having played one fixture. No player has won more than four in a single game this year.
Source: Opta

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Kings Chris Cloete (5) Chris Cloete (1) Malcolm Jaer (51) Thembelani Bholi (11)
Chiefs Damian McKenzie (29) Damian McKenzie (2) Damian McKenzie (164) Sam Cane (18)

Kings – 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 Stefan Watermeyer, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Ntando Kebe, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 JC Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Edgar Matutlule, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Sithembiso Sithole, 17 Martin Bezuidenhout, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 Cyril-John Velleman, 21 Kevin Luiters, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Jaco van Tonder.

Chiefs –  15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Glen Fisiiahi, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Taleni Seu, 5 Johan Bardoul, 4 Michael Allardice, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Subs: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Atu Moli, 19 James Tucker, 20 Maama Vaipulu, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Sam McNicol..

Referee: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Assistant referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Rodney Bonaparte (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

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Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images

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