Super Rugby 2017: Kings v Sharks Prview


The Kings are back at it this weekend after their bye in Round 11, and are set to host an increasingly confident Sharks outfit in Port Elizabeth. The Kings have defied many pundits’ wildest expectations this season, playing a brand of football that relies more upon sheer heart and determination than anything else. Their 44-3 thrashing of the Melbourne Rebels (read “Rabble”) two weeks ago was built on a platform of physical intensity, combined with a willingness to “throw the ball around” and attack. Of course, the Sharks are most certainly not the Rabb-ergh-Rebels, and the hosts will not get as many opportunities to play as expansively against Rob du Preez’s Natalians this weekend as they did in their last outing.

Kings v Sharks | Saturday May 13 | Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium | 17:05

To Win (80 Mins)
Kings 17/4 | Draw 33/1 | Sharks 1/8
Kings (+14.5) 9/10 | Sharks (-14.5) 9/10 

On the basis of this season’s performances, it really would be a shame to wave goodbye to the Southern Kings at the end of the current competition. It’s clear that Deon Davids’ side is a united bunch, that plays for each other –  which is more than can be said for a few other SA franchises – and perhaps Nick Mallet’s idea of combining the Lions and Bulls, and Kings and Cheetahs (thus still managing to represent all regions in next year’s edition) is one worth discussing.

Nevertheless, they go into this one fresh off their bye and, I’m certain, rearing to put one over the men from Durban. Some of the performances of fly-half, Lionel Cronje have been mesmerizing, while the Kings’ back-three of ex-Shark, Wandile Mjekevu, Makazole Mapimpi and Masixole Banda have been electrifying in recent weeks. They will need another big showing from all these men if they are to ask questions of a solid Sharks defensive unit.

While many thought the Kings would be languishing at the bottom of this season’s combined Africa Conference, they have remarkably picked up fifteen-points from their nine-matches, which places them in fifth place, above the likes of the Sunwolves, Cheetahs and Bulls. Another win on Saturday, in what would be their fourth of 2017, would pile on the pressure for SARU to perhaps take Mallet’s words into account. The Eastern Cape deserves as much.

Despite failing to collect a bonus-point in their 37-12 win over the Western Force last week, the Sharks will be confident of outmaneuvering the Kings with the players they have at their disposal. The form in particular of a former Kings player in Lukhanyo Am has been very impressive, with the outside-centre managing to score a five-pointer of his own after setting up Jean-Luc du Preez so superbly earlier on in the contest.

The Sharks will feel safe in the knowledge that they are very much in control of their playoff destiny, sitting in third on the combined Africa Conference and a massive eight-points ahead of the fourth-placed Jaguares, with but a few rounds remaining. With that in mind, Du Preez’s boys will look to seal this weekend’s result before playing more expansively against the Kings, with a bonus-point there for the taking.

The return of captain, Pat Lambie against the Force was a huge coup for the Durban-based franchise, and his gaffer will look to give him a good run in the next two fixtures before the arrival of the Stormers to Kings Park in a fortnight’s time. The Sharks should out-muscle the Kings to get a result here, but would do well not to underestimate the dynamite in their backs.

Verdict: Sharks 1/8
I can’t see the Sharks underestimating the Kings on Saturday. Rob du Preez is a seasoned campaigner, and his voice would have wrung in his players’ ears throughout the week, reminding them that anything is possible on match-day. If the Sharks get a foot-hold, the game is likely to open up late on; which could see the Kings running in a try or two against the run-of-play. Whatever happens, I’ll be sitting in the crowd on Saturday with fingers crossed, hoping that the Windy City delivers a belter.

Written by Shaun Goosen for!

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