Pro 14: Scarlets v Southern Kings Preview

The Scarlets host the Southern Kings in their opening Pro 14 clash on Saturday the 2nd of September, Carmarthenshire

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Scarlets v Southern Kings | 2 September 18h30 | Parc Y Scarlets

To Win (80 Mins)
Scarlets 1/11 | Draw 30/1 | Kings 6/1

South African rugby enters a brave new world, as the much anticipated 2017-18 Pro14 season finally gets underway in Wales and Ireland this weekend. The Eastern Cape’s very own Southern Kings begin their new era with a tough away fixture against the defending champion Scarlets, who, quite frankly, have one of the finest squads in the competition. With players of the calibre of Jonathan Davies, Gareth Davies and Ken Owens, the Kings boys will certainly be under the cosh for large parts of the contest. Deon Davids’ raw and inexperienced squad may just find that their first taste of northern hemisphere rugby proves bitter.

The Scarlets of Llanelli made a mockery of the form book last season, as they flew relatively under the radar during the round-robin stages only to reach their peak in the play-offs. Having finished third at the end of the regular season, the Welshmen were required to fly to Ireland to take on respective title favourites Leinster in the semi-final (whom they dispatched 27-15), and then Munster in a season finale that saw them run out 46-22 victors. To cap off their campaign, four Scarlets were afforded the opportunity to have extended runs in a red jersey, as the aforementioned Davies duo, Owens, as well as Liam Williams were selected to tour New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions in June.
They head into a new campaign with a good dose of continuity within their ranks. Despite the departure of Williams to Saracens, coach Wayne Pivac boasts the ability to call upon the vast majority of his 2016-17 championship-winning squad; something that is not exactly good news for the Kings this weekend. Aside from the fact that the Eastern Cape-brigade represent somewhat of an unknown quantity for Pivac’s charges, he will back the talent he has at his disposal to see them off in the confines of the Parc y Scarlets. His is a settled squad, whose slick backline, in particular, may cause a few South African headaches on Saturday.

Southern Kings
After an immeasurably successful Super Rugby season for rugby in the Eastern Cape, Deon Davids will once again be forced to start building from scratch following the decision by many of his squad members to ply their respective trades elsewhere. Davids will have another tough task on his hands in attempting to make his Kings a competitive bunch, and indeed their first season in Europe may prove to be more of a platform upon which to build more successful campaigns in the future.
While there’s no denying that Michael Willemse’s PE boys will give absolutely everything in their opener this weekend, they may find that the Scarlets pose too tough a challenge. Their experienced combinations and superior playing-ability may just overwhelm this Kings side, many of whom are still coming to grips with the franchise’s playing philosophy.

Verdict: Scarlets 1/11
The Scarlets, at home, will totally outplay the Southern Kings on Saturday. The Kings won’t lack for effort, and will certainly give their all, but the gulf in class will show at the end, where the Scarlets will run out comfortable victors.

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Written by Shaun Goosen for

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