Preview: EP Kings v Blue Bulls

Date published: September 11 2014

The Kings will be determined to secure their first win of the season when they host the Blue Bulls in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

The Kings will be determined to secure their first win of the season when they host the Blue Bulls in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

The home side have battled this season and have only amassed a single point – from a possible 20 – in the standings from their previous five matches.

They will head into this game with plenty of optimism, however, as that bonus point was registered in their 30-25 defeat to the Bulls in Pretoria in Round Three.

The Kings showed in that match that they can be competitive at this level and came close to turning the tables on their more illustrious opponents.

After their victory over the Kings in Pretoria, the Blue Bulls suffered a narrow defeat to the tournament's tabletoppers, Western Province, but returned to the victory trail after claiming a deserved 36-26 home win over the Golden Lions last weekend.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke and his charges are now focused on securing their first away victory of the season.

Ludeke believes his side has turned a corner after their campaign's slow start but isn't taking anything for granted ahead of this weekend's clash.

“They came close at Loftus and we know we need a special performance over the weekend,” he said.

“Obviously every weekend we want to improve, and that builds the confidence you need and the rhythm.”

Ludeke said the victories over the Lions and the Kings gave his charges a much-needed confidence boost.

“The big thing is we are getting the results, especially the last weekend, which was a vital win against a quality side and one of the front-runners.

“To pull off a win against them gives us a lot of confidence because we knew we had to be at our best and we took our opportunities, something which was missing in some of the other games.

“In that department we are making strides forward so this weekend again it is the same story against a quality side that has also been working hard.”

Under the guidance of coach Carlos Spencer, the Kings have played a 15-man game and in Ronnie Cooke, Tim Whitehead and Kevin Luiters they possess fine back-line players who can change the course of a game with moments of brilliance.

Ludeke is aware of the threat posed by these players and the Kings were particularly potent on the counter-attack during the previous encounter.

The Bulls mentor said it was crucial to deny the home side any turnover ball.

“We worked hard on our breakdown, added Ludeke.

“We had a lot of ball in hand but coughed it up at vital stages and that gave them that broken field when the defence wasn't that great,” he said.

“They were really impressive from that, so ball control will be vital to starve them of quality ball because if they get space and front-foot ball, like any side, the backs have speed and skills so that is a situation we would like to manage over the weekend.”

Prediction: Although this will be another close game, the Bulls are slowly building momentum and will be victorious. Bulls to win by four points!

The teams:

Kings: 15 Scott van Breda, 14 Ronnie Cooke, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Devin Oosthuizen, 6 Shaun McDonald, 5 Steven Sykes (c), 4 David Bulbring, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Replacements: 16 Mike van Vuuren, 17 Simon Kerrod, 18 BG Uys, 19 Darron Nell, 20 Stefan Willemse, 21 Tobie Botes, 22 Ntabeni Dukisa

Blue Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann (c), 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Basil Short, 18 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Tony Jantjies/Tian Schoeman, 22 William-Small Smith.

Date: Friday, September 12
Kick-off: 19:10 local (18:10 BST, 17:10 GMT)
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant Referees: Christie du Preez, Vusi Msibi
TMO: Jason Jaftha