Preview: Sharks v Kings

Date published: May 20 2016

The Kings face the unenviable task of travelling to Durban to face a Sharks team that certainly has their tails up and out of the water.

The Sharks have made the most of a difficult Super Rugby schedule and go into Saturday knowing they have a much needed bye next weekend.

While Gary Gold's men have built a campaign around their staunch defence, home fans will no doubt be eager to see what the backline can do against the Kings, who arguably have the poorest defence in the competition.

The Port Elizabeth franchise seems to have had a revolving door policy on defence so far, missing 28 tackles a game on average, which has ultimately led to them conceding the most points by quite some margin.

While the Kings boast aggressive loose forwards that can affect turnovers, the statistics reveal that they struggle to turn those into points, as their attack has beaten the least amount of defenders this year.

With the Sharks looking to cement a place in the play-offs, it is all adding up to be a long Saturday afternoon for the Kings.

The last time the teams met: The Sharks travelled to Port Elizabeth and were surprised by an early Chris Cloete try. But the visitors were keen to spread the ball wide and it paid dividends, as the Sharks ran in five tries of their own. Veteran winger Odwa Ndungane scored a double, helping them to a comfortable 43-8 victory.

Players to watch: Sharks winger Lwazi Mvovo will be licking his lips at the prospect of running at a defence that has conceded a whopping 63 tries this season, 11 more than any other team. Fly-half Patrick Lambie is a crowd favourite and often saves his best performances for Durban.

For the visitors, centre Shane Gates has provided the Kings with some good go-forward when afforded the opportunity, notching up eight clean breaks and beating 16 defenders so far. Pivot Louis Fouche will likely have to deal with some pressure behind a struggling forward pack, so it will be interesting to see how the former Blue Bull handles it.

Team news: The home side have made no less than six changes to the starting line-up that edged the Jaguares last week. The backline remains the same except for Lwazi Mvovo, starts on the left wing as Odwa Ndungane moves to the bench. Michael Claassens replaces Stefan Ungerer at scrum-half while Jean-Luc du Preez comes in for the injured Jean- Deysel. Lock Ettienne Oosthuizen starts alongside Stephan Lewies, which will support an all-new front-row. Lourens Adriaanse, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Dale Chadwick will pack down on Saturday.

There are also changes aplenty for the Kings. The all-new front-row features props Schalk Ferreira and Jacobie Adriaanse either side of Martin Ferreira. There is also a new half-back combination, with Louis Fouche replacing Elgar Watts teaming up with Ntando Kebe, who shifts Kevin Luiters to the bench. Finally, Stefan Willemse replaces JP Jonck in the back-row.

Form: The Sharks are on an upward curve at the moment, coming off a big win over the Hurricanes and close encounter with the Jaguares last week. As a result, they have three victories from their last four outings. The wins have crucially moved them up to third in the South African Group, the last play-off spot.

Meanwhile the Kings have failed to improve since grabbing their first season win in Round 6. In every game since they have conceded at least 34 points, including letting 11 tries in against the Jaguares in Round 10.

Prediction: With good weather predicted, it’s hard to see anything other than a landslide at the Shark Tank with the Sharks winning by at least 25 points.

Previous results:

2016: Sharks won 43-8 in Port Elizabeth
2013: Sharks won 58-13 in Durban
2013: Sharks won 21-12 in Port Elizabeth

The teams:

Sharks: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie (c), 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dale Chadwick
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Lubabalo Mthembu, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Garth April, 23 Odwa Ndungane

Kings: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Lukhanyo Am, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Luzuko Vulindlu, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Ntando Kebe, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Stefan Willemse, 5 Schalk Oelofse, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Schalk Ferreira
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Justin Ackerman, 18 Tom Botha, 19 JC Astle, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Kevin Luiters, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Leighton Eksteen

Date: Saturday, May 21
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 17:10 local (15:10 GMT)
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant Referees: Rodney Bonaparte, Archie Sehlako
TMO: Marius Jonker