The Southern Kings will have an opportunity to test the depth of their squad when they face the Stormers in a friendly in Knysna on Friday night.
Robbi Kempson’s side will meet a near Vodacom Super Rugby-strength squad in a derby fixture between the two neighbouring teams, and a good crowd is expected for this rare opportunity to watch top rugby live.
But, as Kempson explains, the main imperative will be for the two franchises to test their depth and assess the readiness of certain players for specific roles.
For the Kings, who are in mid-season, it is a warm-up opportunity before the first of their PRO14 derby fixtures against South African rivals the Cheetahs in Port Elizabeth on 25 January. The Kings recently returned from a five-week hiatus over the festive season to suffer a 61-13 defeat by Edinburgh at Murrayfield.
Although well beaten in a match where at one stage they were down to 12 men, the Kings did show signs of improvement in their attack, an area they worked on during their brief off-season. The Knysna game will be a good chance for them to develop that aspect without the pressure of playing for competition points.
‘One or two of our players will be rested for the purpose of doing extra conditioning, and also having a couple of players coming back from injuries whom we will be able to utilise and see where they are at,’ said Kempson.
‘We’ll be taking a squad of about 26 players which will include some of our fringe players to see how they have adapted to how things have been going, and to see if they can make the step up should there be a need due to injury later in the PRO14 campaign. So, this will be a great opportunity to give peripheral players a good run.’
The Stormers will be playing two matches in three days this weekend as they are also involved in the Super Hero Sunday extravaganza at FNB Stadium on Sunday. That means the Western Cape franchise won’t quite be at full strength.
Stormers coach John Dobson told the media earlier this week that he will send out a stronger team against the Sharks in Sunday’s match, but that he intends to give some of his Springboks a run in the Knysna game.
‘We do have the commitment to the Super Hero day and Siya Kolisi will be leading the side at the FNB Stadium, but we do owe it to Knysna and to the integration of some of our Springboks back into the team to field a strongish team in Friday night’s game,’ said Dobson on Monday.
‘Someone like [Springbok prop] Frans Malherbe might not be suited to a fast-paced game at altitude this soon after coming back to training, and it will be less of a risk to play him in Knysna. The same holds for some of our other senior players.’
For Kempson, the game will also present an opportunity to experiment.
‘We will make a few positional switches for some guys, an example being Bader Pretorius [usually a flyhalf)] getting a go at inside centre,’ said the former Springbok prop.
Friday’s match will kick off at 7pm at Loerie Park Sports Ground in Knysna.
KNYSNA MUNICIPALITY PRESENTS: STORMERS vs KINGS
Friday 17 January 2020
Entry is Free pic.twitter.com/M10J6nbQiX
— KnysnaMunicipality (@KnysnaMuni) January 13, 2020
Photo: Aled Llywelyn/Gallo Images