Preview: EP Kings v FS Cheetahs
The Kings will need to scale their own version of Everest if they are to gain anything from their encounter with the Cheetahs.
The Eastern Province Kings will need to scale their own version of Everest if they are to gain anything from their encounter with the Free State Cheetahs in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
Taking a 39-point advantage into the second round of their promotion-relegation series, the Cheetahs require a solitary bonus point to ensure they will play Currie Cup rugby next year and reduce the new Super Rugby franchise to another season of First Division (second tier) competition on the domestic stage.
Despite the enormity of the challenge the Kings' Director of Rugby, Alan Solomons, remained steadfast in his belief and cordial as ever as he said they are determined to show they are worthy of their Super Rugby status.
"This is our opportunity to set the record straight and prove that we belong up there," Solomons told this website, calling their first-round defeat: "Uncharacteristic of us, of how we played this year.
"We made way too many mistakes in the first game and that enabled the Cheetahs to heap up the points.
"We also gave away too many penalties and turned over too much possession."
With a log-point system in operation for the series, and the Cheetahs having picked up a full haul of five points and the Kings none, it means that for the Kings win promotion to the Currie Cup competition next year they would have to beat the Cheetahs by 40 points or more but also make sure they deny the visitors a try bonus point.
The return of No.8 Darron Nell, who also take over the captaincy, and veteran utility back uncharacteristic of us, of how we played this year adds some much-needed experience to a team that had a 'deer in the headlights' look about them in Bloemfontein.
"Our goal is to produce a good performance," Solomons told this website, adding: "We didn't do ourselves justice.
"That is taking nothing away from the Cheetahs, who played very well and was thoroughly deserving of their victory.
"We didn't perform as we are capable of and that is what we need to do this weekend."
The captain, Nell, said they were "very upset" with their performance, adding: "It was without doubt our worst match of the season."
However, the Cheetahs have made it clear they will not simply roll over and play dead. In fact they are determined to reproduce last week's drubbing.
Coach Naka Drotské spoke of "making a big statement after a pretty dismal season", by collecting another full-house five points.
"We've practised hard this week and will be going to Port Elizabeth with the mindset of scoring tries," Drotské said.
"We again want to beat the Kings comprehensively."
For the record: After completion of the promotion-relegation series, the team with the most log points accumulated during these two matches will play in the Currie Cup competition next year.
In the event of an equal number of log points, the winner will be determined as follows:
a) the best nett points difference, i.e. points for minus points against, and if equal;
b) the team who scored the most tries, and if equal;
c) the status quo will remain.
Players to watch:
For the Eastern Province Kings: The call-up of young Siviwe Soyizwapi on the wing will ensure a share of the spotlight will fall on him. However, the players that hold the key are the likes of Michael Killian at fullback, Paul Perez, who is in the midfield this week, Siyabonga Mangweni, Falie Oelschig at scrumhalf, and then Darron Nell at lock - mostly because of his leadership and ability to keep those around him calm.
For the Free State Cheetahs: Top of the list this week is flyhalf Sias Ebersohn, who will be making his final appearance for the Cheetahs, before heading to Perth for a Super Rugby season with the Western Force. He has had an unhappy year in Bloemfontein, but he would like to show the coaching staff that they erred in not making more use of his this year. The selection of Seven Springbok Rayno Benjamin on the wing is a clear indication that the Cheetahs are looking to attack even more than last week. Add to that Baby Bok Raymond Rhule on the other wing and the Kings' defensive lines are sure to be tested. Captain Adriaan Strauss and Marcel van der Merwe will be the main ball-carriers again.
Head to head: Paul Perez (EP Kings) and Robert Ebersohn (FS Cheetahs) have had the opportunity to go head-to-head on the Sevens circuit - Perez for Samoa and Ebersohn for South Africa. But in the more confined spaces of the 15-man game Perez will most likely rely more on his power to force the gaps. The decisive battle will be between the tight forwards - Rynier Bernardo, Darron Nell, Andre Schlechter, Hannes Franklin and Schalk Ferreira (for the Kings) against Izak van der Westhuizen, Francois Uys, Ross Geldenhuys, Adriaan Strauss and Marcel van der Merwe (for the Cheetahs).
Last week's result: Free State Cheetahs 53-14 Eastern Province Kings, Bloemfontein
Prediction: It is unlikely to be the 50-point blow-out of last week - not just because the Kings are at home, but the home team will be determined to avoid the humiliation that accompanied last week's result. Also, they have a few key players back. However, it is difficult to see the Kings beat the Cheetahs, who are likely to win comfortably again - by 15 to 20 points.
Eastern Province Kings: 15 Michael Killian, 14 Norman Nelson, 13 Paul Perez, 12 Siyabonga Mangweni, 11 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Falie Oelschig, 8 Devin Oosthuizen, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Conraad Britz, 5 Rynier Bernardo, 4 Darron Nell (captain), 3 Andre Schlechter, 2 Hannes Franklin, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Frank Herne, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 David Bullbring, 19 Mpho Mbiyozo, 20 Scott Mathie, 21 Wesley Dunlop, 22 Scott van Breda.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Philip Snyman, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Davon Raubenheimer, 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Hendrik Venter, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Barry Geel, 22 Nico Scheepers.
Date: Friday, October 26
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 19.10 (18.10 GMT)
Expected weather: Overcast with a chance of rain. High of 20 °C, low of 11°C. Winds from the SSE at 15 to 35 km/h.
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: Quintin Immelman, Cobus Wessels
TMO: Johann Meuwesen
By Jan de Koning