Preview: Pumas v EP Kings

Date published: September 17 2015

The Pumas will be keen to return to the victory trail when they host the Eastern Province Kings in Nelspruit on Friday.

The home side have gone off the boil in recent weeks with their last triumph registered in Round Three when they notched a narrow 15-13 victory over the Kings in this corresponding fixture in Port Elizabeth.

Since that win, they suffered defeats to the Golden Lions, Sharks and Griquas.

Last weekend's result against Griquas was a significant one as it handed their opponents their first win of the season and leaves the Pumas just two points ahead of the Kings on the table, after they also won their first match of the season – a 32-24 triumph over the Free State Cheetahs in Port Elizabeth.

The Pumas have been boosted by the return of Springbok tighthead prop Vincent Koch while regular captain Stefan Watermeyer is also back in midfield.

Scrum-half Faf de Klerk will be highly motivated to do well in his 50th game for the home side after he was yellow carded in their loss to Griquas.

Meanwhile, the Kings have kept changes to a minimum after last weekend's victory over the Cheetahs. The only change to the starting line-up sees Schalk Ferreira taking over from Lizo Gqoboka in the front row, with Gqoboka named on the bench.

"The team is very similar to last week's side but this week we will be starting Schalk Ferreira at loosehead, with Lizo dropping to the bench," said Kings coach Brent Janse van Rensburg. 

"It is part of our rotation plan after Lizo played three games in a row.

"Schalk is a very experienced forward and we felt it was time to give him another opportunity after he played three in a row earlier in the season."

Despite registering their first win of the season over the Cheetahs, Janse van Rensburg said they realised they would face a massive challenge in Nelspruit.

"That win was very important for us because it was reward for the hard work the players have put in and it will have helped our confidence," he added.

"But we know, while we need to be confident, we cannot be arrogant because we will still have to work hard for any win and nothing will just fall into our laps.

"Playing in Nelspruit is always a tough challenge and we know the Pumas will be out to make a statement after losing to Griquas last weekend."

Captain Tim Whitehead echoed Janse van Rensburg's sentiments and said their focus remained solely on their next game.

"Yes, it (the win) was a bit of a relief for us because we have been working so hard over the last couple of months and just to be rewarded with a good victory over the Cheetahs was massive for us," Whitehead said.

"But now we are really keen for the next challenge and we are making sure we are just focusing on one game at a time."

Prediction: Although the Kings are on a high after last weekend's result against the Cheetahs, the Pumas will take this one in front of their home crowd. Pumas to win by six points!

The teams:

Pumas: 15 Hoffmann Maritz, 14 Jerome Pretorius, 13 Wilmaure Louw, 12 Stefan Watermeyer (c), 11 Rosco Spekman, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jason-Colin Fraser, 7 Jaco Bouwer, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Frank Herne, 1 Corné Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Marné Coetzee, 18 Jannie Stander, 19 Uzair Cassiem, 20 Reynier van Rooyen, 21 Hennie Skorbinski, 22 Marcello Sampson.

EP Kings: 15 Scott van Breda, 14 Siyanda Grey, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Tim Whitehead (c), 11 Luther Obi, 10 Karlo Aspeling, 9 Enrico Acker, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Steven Sykes, 4 Stefan Willemse, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Cornel Hess, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Dwayne Kelly, 22 Elgar Watts.

Date: Friday, September 18
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Kick-off: 17:00 local (15:00 GMT)
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Willie Vos