Home ground boost for Cheetahs‚ Kings in PRO14
The PRO14 enters its next phase when the two new South African additions‚ the Southern Kings and Cheetahs‚ host home games for the first time this weekend.
Although they will never admit it‚ organisers must be hoping that at least one of the SA teams secures a win after a dismal start to the new adventure.
After two weeks it appears more like a misadventure with the Kings and Cheetahs losing four out of four and being outscored by 182 points to 57.
The Cheetahs face Italian strugglers Zebre‚ and should fancy this as a must-win game‚ but the Europeans have at least shown more of an appetite for defending than the South Africans.
The Kings won’t find life much easier after their opening two matches against the Scarlets and Connacht when they take on another Irish team in Leinster in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The former double-European champions are one of six undefeated teams after two rounds and are likely to stretch their winning streak to three games this weekend.
But the Kings can take some comfort knowing that it’s not a full strength Leinster that will run out at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium at the weekend.
Coach Leo Cullen was unable to select several key players for the two-match tour‚ which also includes a clash against the Cheetahs next weekend.
In total Cullen has named 28 players but those ruled out through injury include Dan Leavy (ankle)‚ Rob Kearney (hamstring)‚ Peadar Timmins (quad)‚ Jamie Heaslip (lower back)‚ Richardt Strauss (knee)‚ Tom Daly (knee) and Garry Ringrose (shoulder).
Cullen also confirmed that Ireland international Devin Toner and Wallaby flank Scott Fardy were not considered for selection as their wives are expecting their first child in the next few weeks.
It’s certainly taken some firepower out of the Leinster squad and presents the Kings with an outside chance this weekend.
But Deon Davids’s team are still thin on paper as he tries to build a squad and a style that will bring success in the long run.
Davids‚ in a rallying cry to fans in the Eastern Cape‚ has urged them to come out and support his side to give them every advantage they can muster against some tough opposition.
“There is no doubt‚ as we saw earlier this year‚ that our team plays at its best when they have local support‚” Davids said.
“We are grateful to those who came out in numbers this year and I am confident that they will come back for more when we play against all these world stars in the PRO14.
“The Kings want to do well in this competition and we will need the support of all our fans in order to achieve this.
"There are really so many world stars in action and every opposing team will bring their own brand of play and particular skills set.”