No welcome mat for the Kings
No welcome mat for the KingsSHARE
The Southern Kings may come from the Friendly City, but they should not expect a welcome mat to be rolled out for them in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie admitted that playing the Kings in Bloem is an advantage for his team, given the huge, passionate support the PE franchise receive from their near capacity crowds at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
"They [the Kings] are still doing very well," Fourie told this website, when asked about Saturday's all-South African derby.
"Their defence is great and they don't easily concede metres – they always have numbers on their feet [at the breakdown and on defence].
"They are also a physical team, with their tight forward doing a lot better than what most [pundits] expected.
"Players like Steven Sykes and Schalk Ferreira are making a major difference in that team.
"Added to that their loose forwards are playing very good rugby – no doubt it will be a tough game.
"We are just glad our first encounter with them is in Bloemfontein and not Port Elizabeth," the Cheetahs backline mentor added.
The other key factor is that the Kings also have a player whom the Cheetahs are very familiar, with Springbok Andries Strauss having moved to PE this year after two seasons in Bloemfontein.
"He is a great defender and his organisational skills are great," Fourie said, when quizzed about Strauss' presence in the Kings midfield.
"Waylon Murray [is] the same," the Cheetahs assistant coach said, adding: "Add to that [Demetri] Catrakilis, who is kicking well, and I am also impressed with Shaun Venter at scrumhalf.
"He [Venter] is beginning to get a lot of confidence and are making a few line-breaks, so he is certainly a danger and a player to watch.
The only possible setback could be the absence of wing Sergeal Petersen, who remains sidelined with a lingering groin injury.
"He [Petersen] was having a good season, is a great finisher and was scoring plenty of tries."
By Jan de Koning