Planet Rugby

Preview: Kings v Lions

24th July 2013 11:52

Share:

Kings v Lions

Lions ten: Elton Jantjies

It's all on the line as the Kings and the Lions prepare to do battle in the first leg of their Super Rugby promotion-relegation clash.

In a sense, Friday's match is more important than the Super Rugby semi-finals that will be played the following day or perhaps even next week's final. This two-leg play-off is not about silverware, it's a simple matter of survival.

The Kings have performed admirably in their first season of Super Rugby. A bright start saw them fair very well against Australian opposition, beating the Force and Rebels and grabbing an exhilarating draw with the Brumbies.

However, they faded badly in the latter stages of the campaign, despite notching up a further win over the Highlanders, taking a bit of shine off their opening successes.

Meanwhile, in the wilderness of the Vodacom Cup, the Lions have been doing all that could be expected of them - winning. The men from Johannesburg hoisted the Vodacom Cup trophy after beating the Pumas in the final, although their build-up to the knockout stages was not the most convincing as they squeaked through on points difference.

Alongside the Vodacom Cup, the Lions have run a series of fixtures that make up the 'Lions Challenge', which has seen them beat Russia, Mont de Marsan and Samoa but also have a host of fixtures cancelled, hurting their preparation for the match against the Kings.

The Lions have been boosted by the return of lock Franco van der Merwe, hooker Martin Bezuidenhout and fly-half Elton Jantjies for the encounter, with the trio back with the union after Super Rugby loan spells with other franchises.

On the face of it, Jantjies is the man that should have the most impact. After a disappointing season with the Stormers, the young pivot has a point to prove and it may be the last one he gets to make for some time if he doesn't secure a deal in Cape Town.

However, one of the Lions' Achilles heels this year has been their set plays, with the line-out a particular concern. Van der Merwe confirmed his quality at the Sharks and Johan Ackermann will need the experienced campaigner to step up and, in conjunction with Bezuidenhout, take responsibility for shoring up the Lions line-out.

The Kings will also be looking to a few key figures to step up, particularly in the absence of Luke Watson and Andries Strauss. The pair have shared the leadership duties for the majority of the season, although Friday's skipper Darron Nell has also worn the captain's armband. The hosts will also be without flyer Sergeal Petersen whose explosive nature will be missed.

Aside from the three absentees the side bears only one change to the one that beat the Force in the opening game of the season, with Nell replacing Steven Sykes. But while the personnel may not differ too much, the team seem to be in a different head space.

Real or imagined, one can't help but feel that a season of Super Rugby has left the Kings a bit flat ahead of what is the biggest game of the year. While head coach Matt Sexton on Tuesday spoke of the excitement within the squad for a game "that's like a Test match or a World Cup final", the feeling from the outside is that the Kings are not in the best shape.

This is obviously not ideal when one considers the importance of the match; suggestions that it's do or die for the team that loses over two legs are not far-fetched - the financial implications will be massive.

However, if there is one thing that the Kings have shown this year is that they have the ability to surprise. They weren't expected to win a match this season yet they produced three victories with some great defence and industrious attack. They have certainly have the ability to win, but whether they will remains to be seen.

Head-to-head: There is a certain irony in the match-up between Demetri Catrakilis and Elton Jantjies. Jantjies is the man that wore the number ten jersey for the Stormers this season while Catrakilis was the player many began to wish was filling the role. It would be doing Jantjies a disservice to label his time with the Cape side as a failure, but it's safe to say he will need to prove a few doubters wrong on Friday. In contrast, Catrakilis has exceeded expectations this term, picking up from where he left off after a successful Currie Cup campaign with Western Province.

Key battle: Rather than one particular position, discipline will be the buzz word from both coaches heading into the game. Both Catrakilis and Jantjies are strong from the kicking tee and ill-discipline will prove costly not only on the scoreboard but also in terms of building up much-needed momentum.

The teams:

Kings: 15 SP Marais, 14 Hadleigh Parkes, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Marcello Sampson, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Darron Nell (capt), 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Charl du Plessis, 17 Hannes Franklin, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Devin Oosthuizen, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Waylon Murray.

Lions: 15 Ruan Combrinck, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Nicolaas Hanekom, 12 Dylan des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Willie Britz, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Chrysander Botha.

Date: Friday, July 26
Venue: Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 19.10 (17.10 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha, Sindile Mayende
TMO: Deon van Blommestein

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 23
Saracens vs NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Preview
London Welsh vs Leicester TigersLondon Welsh vs Leicester Tigers Preview
Friday , November 28
Bath vs Harlequins19:45
Saturday , November 29
Leicester Tigers vs Wasps15:00
Exeter vs Saracens16:30
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
International Match
Sunday , November 23
Georgia vs JapanGeorgia vs Japan Preview
Saturday , November 29
Wales vs South Africa14:30
England vs Australia14:30
More International Match fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Sunday , November 23
Treviso vs LeinsterTreviso vs Leinster Preview
Edinburgh vs Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Preview
Friday , November 28
Munster vs Ulster19:35
Cardiff Blues vs Treviso19:35
Saturday , November 29
Zebre vs Edinburgh15:00
Leinster vs Ospreys17:15
Connacht vs Scarlets19:30
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 29
Oyonnax vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Lyon vs Montpellier18:00
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:00
Castres vs Racing Metro Paris18:00
Toulon vs Clermont Auvergne18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 22
London Irish 23 - 33 BathLondon Irish vs Bath Report
Exeter 31 - 15 WaspsExeter vs Wasps Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Italy 6 - 22 South AfricaItaly vs South Africa Report
Ireland 26 - 23 AustraliaIreland vs Australia Report
England 28 - 9 SamoaEngland vs Samoa Report
Wales 16 - 34 New ZealandWales vs New Zealand Report
Romania 18 - 9 CanadaRomania vs Canada Report
Scotland 37 - 12 TongaScotland vs Tonga Report
France 13 - 18 ArgentinaFrance vs Argentina Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 21
Harlequins 12 - 16 Sale SharksHarlequins vs Sale Sharks Report
Newcastle Falcons 20 - 10 GloucesterNewcastle Falcons vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Fiji 20 - 14 USAFiji vs USA Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Dragons 12 - 38 MunsterDragons vs Munster Report
Ulster 25 - 16 OspreysUlster vs Ospreys Report
Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow WarriorsScarlets vs Glasgow Warriors Report
Connacht 43 - 3 ZebreConnacht vs Zebre Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 16
Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 SaracensLeicester Tigers vs Saracens Report
Wasps 71 - 7 London WelshWasps vs London Welsh Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Ireland 49 - 7 GeorgiaIreland vs Georgia Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 15
Sale Sharks 36 - 8 London IrishSale Sharks vs London Irish Report
Bath 23 - 14 Newcastle FalconsBath vs Newcastle Falcons Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Romania 13 - 18 JapanRomania vs Japan Report
France 29 - 26 AustraliaFrance vs Australia Report
Scotland 16 - 24 New ZealandScotland vs New Zealand Report
England 28 - 31 South AfricaEngland vs South Africa Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Exeter828
2Bath828
3Northampton726
4Saracens724
5Wasps820