The Kings must rediscover their fighting spirit when they face the Blues in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
It’s been a long season for the Kings. As expected, the disruptions that affected their buildup to the season and compromised their squad composition have left them fighting an uphill battle.
The Kings have conceded a whopping 384 points and 54 tries in eight games, with their only success this season coming in a hard-fought win over the Sunwolves.
Despite the Kings’ struggles, they have at least shown some glimpses of their character and never-say-die spirit during the campaign, but heavy defeats in recent weeks would have taken its toll.
After their win over the Sunwolves, the Kings have lost 38-6 to the Bulls, 45-10 to the Lions and then suffered their biggest blowout of the season as the Jaguares smashed them 73-27 last Saturday.
The Kings have now returned home, but will be coming up against a Blues side that has won its last two games against the Sharks and Rebels. New coach Tana Umaga has begun to steer the Blues back in the right direction, but the Auckland-based side will come to Port Elizabeth with a metaphoric monkey on their back.
Almost unbelievably, the Blues have secured just two wins and a draw from their last 27 matches outside Auckland. If the Kings can start well, it may cause some doubt to creep into the minds of the Blues players.
The Kings' primary aim on Saturday should be to ensure their defence is far more organised than it was against the Jaguares, while if they can finally produce a sustained 80-minute effort, there is some hope that they could avoid another hefty defeat.
Heavy rain and wind is expected in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, and that could also play into the Kings’ hands in terms of keeping the score close, with James Hall starting at scrumhalf in one of the tactical changes with the expected weather in mind.
Each week for the Kings is a case of restoring some pride, and coach Deon Davids will once again be calling on his players to display the fighting spirit necessary to avoid another one-sided defeat.
HEAD TO HEAD
This is the teams' first meeting.
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).
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Kings||Louis Fouché (57)||Chris Cloete (4)||Shane Gates (289)||CJ Velleman (95)|
|Blues||Ihaia West (101)||Ihaia West (3)||Rieko Ioane (357)||Blake Gibson (81)|
Kings – 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Lukhanyo Am, 13 Stefan Watermeyer, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Luzuko Vulindlu, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 James Hall, 8 CJ Velleman, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 JC Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Tom Botha, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Martin Ferreira, 17 Justin Ackerman, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 Stefan Willemse, 21 James Hall, 22 Louis Fouché, 23 Leighton Eksteen.
Blues – 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Melani Nanai, 13 George Moala, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Sam Prattley.
Subs: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Hoani Matenga, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Matt McGahan, 23 Male Sa’u.
Referee: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rashivhenge (South Africa), Archie Sehlako (South Africa)
TMO: Christie du Preez (South Africa)
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Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images