Preview: Kings v Bulls

Date published: April 8 2016

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The Kings host their big brothers the Bulls in what promises to be an entertaining South African derby in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

After a slow start to the tournament – in which they suffered heavy defeats in their first four matches – the Kings finally got their campaign on track with a deserved 33-28 victory over the Sunwolves at home last weekend.

While they will still be the underdogs in this match-up with the Bulls, that opening win would have been a tremendous shot in the arm for head coach Deon Davids and his troops, who will approach their assignment with the three-time champions with renewed vigour.

The Kings will look to build on the positives which emerged in that triumph over the Sunwolves and one facet of play which they will be hoping to exploit are the scrums.

They got the better of the Sunwolves in the set-piece and will be bouyed by the fact that the Bulls were on the back-foot in the scrums when they beat the Cheetahs in Pretoria last weekend.

Although both sides have shown a willingness to play expansively in their previous fixtures, neither side are amongst the leading attacking sides in the tournament.

The Kings are struggling with ball in hand and have made the least clean breaks (28) in the competition, second least carries (401), gained the least metres (1390) and beaten the least defenders (55).

The Bulls statistics aren't much better and they only have 34 clean breaks, 550 carries, 1982 metres gained and 94 metres gained. They also have the second worst scrum success rate (75 percent) while the Kings have an impressive 90 percent in that category.

The last time these teams met: The Bulls won a one-sided affair, 34-0, in front of a full house at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth in 2013. The men from Pretoria scored four tries with Jan Serfontein, Jano Vermaak, Jacques Potgieter and Akona Ndungane all dotting down. 

Players to watch: Although the Kings have battled in most of their previous matches, Edgar Marutlulle has been one of the in-form hookers in the competition. Marutlulle does his basics well but has shone as a ball carrier and is his side's top try-scorer with three five-pointers so far. Once he gains momentum, he's difficult to stop.

After doing duty at full-back in last weekend's triumph over the Cheetahs, Jesse Kriel is back at outside centre for the Bulls. Kriel received plenty of praise as the Springboks' first-choice number 13 in 2015 and will be keen replicate that form with a fine display in midfield against the Kings.

Form: The Kings claimed their first victory of the season when they beat the Sunwolves 33-28 in Port Elizabeth last weekend. Prior to that, they lost all four their previous matches and had a bye in Round Two. They kicked off their campaign with a 43-8 defeat to the Sharks in Port Elizabeth before suffering a 58-24 loss, also at home, against the Chiefs. They then went on their tour to New Zealand where the Crusaders thrashed them 57-24 in Christchurch before the Hurricanes claimed a 42-20 victory in Wellington.

The Bulls' campaign got off to a horrific start when they suffered a 33-9 defeat in their opener to the Stormers in Cape Town. They bounced back in style with a 45-25 triumph over the Rebels in Pretoria and had a bye in Round Three. In their next match, they drew 16-16 at home with the Sharks and in Round Five they had to work hard to secure a 30-27 win over the Sunwolves in Singapore. They followed that up with another narrow 23-18 victory over the Cheetahs in Pretoria.

Team News: Despite last weekend's victory, Davids has made several changes to his run-on side. Tom Botha moves up from the bench to take over from Jacobie Adriaanse, who has a rib injury. Chris Cloete was cleared to play on Thursday after dislocating his finger against the Sunwolves. Cloete comes in for CJ Velleman, who moves to the bench, in a rotational change. Among the backs, scrum-half Ntando Kebe moves out to the bench and James Hall, who has recovered from a neck injury, is now in the starting line-up. Stefan Watermeyer starts at inside centre in place of Shane Gates, who is batting with a foot injury, and Lukhanyo Am comes in at outside centre. Luzuko Vulindlu is fit again and replaces Siyanda Grey on the wing. Grey, in turn, hurt his knee last week.

Former Kings stalwart SP Marais will take over from Jesse Kriel at full-back for the Bulls. Marais replaces Kriel, who returns to the midfield to partner Jan Serfontein. Rudy Paige is also out injured and Piet van Zyl will start at nine for the first time this year, with Ivan van Zyl remaining on the bench as back-up scrum-half. In changes to the pack, Arno Botha returns to the number eight position, replacing Nic de Jager, while Lappies Labuschagne is back in the starting pack. He replaces Roelof Smit, who moves to the bench. In another change, Trevor Nyakane will start at loosehead prop, with Lizo Gqoboka dropping out. Kriel's twin brother, Dan, comes in on the bench as back-line cover and could make his Super Rugby debut should he take to the field.

Prediction: Although there will be plenty of confidence in the home side's ranks, the Bulls will have too much power and class. Bulls to win by 18 points!

Previous result:

2013: Bulls won 34-0 in Port Elizabeth

The teams:

Kings: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Louis Fouche, 9 James Hall, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 JC Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Tom Botha, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Sti Sithole 
Replacements: 16 Martin Ferreira, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Justin Ackerman, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 CJ Velleman, 21 Ntando Kebe, 22 Leighton Eksteen/JP Du Plessis, 23 Jaco van Tonder

Bulls: 15 SP Marais, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Dan Kriel

Date: Saturday, April 9
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 19:15 local (17:15 GMT)
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant Referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Archie Sehlako (South Africa)
TMO: Christie du Preez (South Africa)

By David Skippers

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