Preview: Kings v Sharks

Date published: February 26 2016

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Both the Kings and the Sharks will have a reason to leave it all on the field when they meet in their Super Rugby opener in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

This will be the Kings’ first Super Rugby match since 2013, their only season in the competition, and they are yet to claim victory over a fellow South African team.

The Sharks will be seeking redemption after a poor 2015 campaign which saw them gaining the fewest metres per game on average (344), while their tackle success was the worst in the competition (83%).

The Kings, on the other hand, conceded 564 points in their 2013 Super Rugby campaign, the third most of any team in a season in Super Rugby history.
 
This will be only the third meeting between these sides with the Sharks winning both previous matches by an aggregate score line of 79-25.

Sharks wing Lwazi Mvovo is excited about their prospects and voiced his optimism about the opportunities flamboyant Willie le Roux can create for their backline.

“Willie is a world-class player, and with that experience at the back he eases the tension and nerves,” Mvovo told The Mercury.

“As a back-three combination we are very excited in showing what we can do. 

"But it is not just us, it is S’Bura, Odwa Ndungane and the likes who are willing to fit in and just play exciting rugby.

Kings captain Steven Sykes assured fans that they can expect expect something special from the team.

“I think the guys have a bigger ‘never say die’ attitude," said Sykes.

"The guys want to play, we want to show everyone that we are here to play rugby and here to play as a team.” 

Head Coach Deon Davids said his side worked hard during the pre-season, and believes their preparation will reflect in how they play.

"It will be a challenge for us, and we will have to ensure that we are defensively organised,” said Davids.

"We have tried to simulate that in our training sessions and have trained at a very high intensity."

"It is a case of how well we have done things we could have done up to now."

The last time these teams met: Back in 2013, the Sharks outscored the Kings ten tries to two in a 58-13 thrashing in Durban as the King's debut Super Rugby season unravelled in the closing weeks. Earlier in the season, the Kings had put up more of a fight, going down 21-12 in PE. 

Players to Watch: Former Bulls loose forward Jacques Engelbrecht will be looking to continue getting his team on the front-foot with his ball-carrying ability and his physicality and power should boost the struggling Kings up front.

The high-profile Sharks recruit Willie le Roux could add a completely different dimension to the team’s attack. The dynamic full-back didn’t put his best performances on display last season, struggling with form and fitness at the Cheetahs, while failing to really set the scene alight with the Boks. Looking for an impressive comeback after a stint in Japan, Le Roux can be expected to shine at 15.

Team news: Steven Sykes will lead the Kings and pack down in the second row alongside fellow former Sharks lock JC Astle, with Martin Ferreira, Tom Botha and Schalk Ferreira completing the tight five. Chris Cloete, Jacques Engelbrecht , and Thembelani Bholi will make up the back row, while Ntando Kebe and Elgar Watts are the scrum-halves. Shane Gates and JP du Plessis will partner up in midfield, with Malcolm Jaer, Luzuko Vulindlu and former Bulls fullback Jurgen Visser wearing the outside back jerseys.

Tendai  Mtawarira will assume the captaincy role in the absence of injured regular Sharks team captain Patrick Lambie.Former Stormers and Cheetahs back Joe Pietersen will slot in at at fly-half in a back line that will see Willie le Roux win his first cap for the Sharks at full-back

Form: The Sharks finished their 2015 Super Rugby season with three straight victories. A fourth would represent their longest streak since they won five in a row to Round 5, 2014. Their season got off to a good start when the Durban franchise beat Toulouse 31-17 in a Super Rugby warm-up match at the Stade Ernest-Wallon in Toulouse, and also came out on top when when they beat Toulon 29-21 away.

The Kings' preparations were a bit more bleak as they went down 21-11 to the Cheetahs and edged out SWD Eagles 22-16 in their two Super Rugby friendlies.

Predictions: With both teams looking to prove their worth, the fixture should make for an entertaining one. The Sharks have more experience on the Super Rugby stage and boast big-name backline players such as Cobus Reinach, Lwazi Mvovo and Willie le Roux. Sharks by 15.

Previous results:

2013: Sharks won 58-13 in Durban
2013: Sharks won 12-21-12 in Port Elizabeth

The teams:
 
Kings: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Ntando Kebe, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 JC Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (captain), 3 Tom Botha, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Schalk Ferreira
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 TBC, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 Cyril-John Velleman, 21 Leighton Eksteen, 22 Louis Fouche, 23 Charles Radebe

Sharks: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira (c)
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Dave McDuling, 20 Philip van der Walt, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Garth April, 23 S’bura Sithole

Date: Saturday, February 27
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 15:00 local (13:05 GMT)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Rodney Bonaparte (South Africa), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker

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