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Super Rugby 2017: Kings v Lions Preview
The Kings will want to build on their impressive performance against the Sharks last weekend, when the Lions visit Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The Lions will be looking to secure another bonus point victory when they travel down to Port Elizabeth to take on the Kings. The visitors fared well in this fixture last year winning by 35 points. They will, however, face a much more competent Kings side this time around.
Kings v Lions | Saturday 25 March | Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium | 15:05
To Win (80 Mins)
Kings 10/1 | Draw 40/1 | Lions 1/50
Kings (+26.5) 9/10 | (-26.5) 9/10
It was a case of so close yet so far for Deon Davids’ struggling Kings outfit last weekend, with only a late Curwin Bosch penalty denying them what would have been their first-ever victory over another South African franchise. Their 19-17 defeat would have hurt even more considering that they managed to upset the Sharks’ attacking flow for much of the eighty, with solid defensive and a tenacity at the breakdown continually frustrating their opponents.
This week offers up another chance to cause an upset, albeit this time in the form of the Lions. If the Kings employ the same tactics that they used against the Durbanites, they should similarly spoil the Lions ball and nullify their attack. The same heart on defence that they showed last week will frustrate the Lions, who rely a lot on go-forward ball to play their expansive game. First-time tackles and organisation on ’D’ is key for the men from PE, though they will be hard-pressed to keep up with the Lions intensity for the entire duration of the match.
In a week that’s been rife with speculation over the Kings continued inclusion in Super Rugby, the news that 'Captain Fantastic', Schalk Ferreira, injured his bicep against the Sharks was a cruel blow. Already without key players like CJ Velleman and Rudi van Rooyen, they will sweat over the fitness of their skipper in the lead-up to this weekend’s clash.
The Lions have also been dealing with a certain level of controversy over the last week or so, after the news broke that coach, Johan Ackerman may take up a role at Gloucester at the conclusion of the 2017 season. Ackerman took the Lions from the abyss to the final of Super Rugby in just a few short seasons, and his loss would hit the Johannesburg franchise very hard indeed.
It will be fascinating to see how the Lions deal with the speculation when they take to the field this weekend. Indeed it would seem that they are getting back to their very best, and last week’s 44-14 demolition of the hapless Reds sparked flashbacks of some of their best performances last season.
The Kings game offers them another chance to get back to their best, and their big ball-carriers (read Jaco Kriel and Franco Mostert) should breach the gain line on regular occasions to allow Elton Jantjies to set the backline alight. The game is bound to open up in the third quarter or so, and expect the likes of Courtnall Skosan (last week’s four-try man) and Rohan Janse van Rensburg to take full advantage.
Verdict: Lions (-26.5) 9/10
The Lions seem to be nearing their best, and the Kings will battle to create chances against their solid defence. The Gautengers should clear the handicap.