Force will be Kings' first test
Force will be Kings' first testSHARE
The Lions' supporters are working themselves into a frenzy ahead of the visit by Super Rugby newcomers the Kings. However, the men from Port Elizabeth will not attach any significance to the result.
Since the Kings were confirmed as the fifth South African franchise for the 2013, at the expense of the Lions, the hype surrounding this pre-season outing has been building steadily.
The words 'grudge match' are frequently used, especially in Johannesburg, but the Kings are confident they can ignore all the pre-match sideshows and focus on the bigger picture.
"Everybody is entitled to take whatever view they like of the game," Kings Director of Rugby, Alan Solomons told this website in an interview, adding: "For us this is a friendly match."
The Kings have two 'friendlies' back to back – against the Lions on Saturday (February 9) and Griquas four days later in Port Elizabeth.
"These matches are being played as [part of our] preparation for our opening match [against the Western Force] on February 23," Solomons said..
"That [the encounter with the Force] is the high watermark for us.
"There is nothing else, there is nothing at stake [in the games against the Lions and Griquas] – they are just two friendly matches to facilitate our preparations for Super Rugby."
The Kings boss also dismissed the notion that his team's under-par performances against the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (a 28-12 win) and an SWD Franchise XV (a 29-13 victory) are an indication of his team's prospects in their debut year in Super Rugby.
Even though Solomons himself described the latter result as a "bad day at the office", he felt it is more about the "practice" they are getting than the actual results.
"I don't think scorelines matter much at this stage," he said, when asked about the suggestion that their earlier outings indicate that the men from PE have no hope of success in the tournament.
"Those two games were about getting a lot of our squad a hit-out," Solomons said, adding: "We had 28 players in the matchday squad for those games.
"The friendlies [against the Lions and Griquas] are also part of it.
"We are now getting closer to the time – it is all about preparation for the opening fixture, not about anything else.
"People are entitled to read what they like into anything.
"Our attitude is, this is about preparing. We had the two match practices and now these two friendlies – our wider squad will have all taken part in these matches and that is good preparation for us.
"You have to play under match conditions.
"In my experience no side worries about it [pre–season matches] too much. The Stormers lost to the Cheetahs last weekend, but I certainly don't read anything into that result at all. They [the Stormers] needed a hit-out and chances for their guys to have a run – some of their players did not play and they will play in another one."
Solomons said every franchise prepare however they want to prepare and do what they believe is best for their team.
"All it is, is preparation, nothing else," he said, adding: "The Bulls are exactly the same.
"I spoke to [Bulls assistant coach] Pieter Rossouw before the game [against the Lions last week] and they viewed it purely as preparation and a lot of their players didn't play that game."
Solomons said the only result they should be judged on is the match against the Western Force in PE on February 23.
"That is our first test, the opening round of the competition – anything that goes before that, is merely part and partial of our preparations."
By Jan de Koning