Pro 14: Kings v Zebre Preview

The Southern Kings will be gunning for their first win in the Pro 14 when they host Italian minnows Zebre this Saturday the 23rd of September.

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The few 1500 odd people who turned out to watch the Pro 14's Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium 's Christening would have left the ground feeling aggrieved that they hadn't followed in the rest of Port Elizabeth's footsteps and stayed at home. While the Kings far from shamed themselves during their 10-31 defeat to European powerhouses Leinster, they weren't ever really in the contest, with the Irish giants dominating all facets of the game.

The visit of a significantly weaker European side this week should offer the Kings a rest bite, but so abject have the South African outfit bee, that I would not be surprised to see them go down to Zebre.

To Win (80 Mins)
Kings 3/10 | Draw 21/10 | Zebre 26/10
Kings | Zebre * Handicap to be added upon release

Southern Kings
It was always going to be an uphill slog for the South African franchise once the majority of their Super Rugby squad moved on to pastures new. But boy, have the men from the Eastern Cape struggled. We are only three games into the season and this rag-tag outfit have already conceded 120 points. Even more damning is their lack of points; they have only scored 30 points in their three encounters. Things get worse when you add the old averages into it.

The Kings have averaged just ten points per game this term, while they're conceding at a rate of 40 per fixture. And while the visit of Zebre, who have been rather porous on defence themselves, is a much easier tie than their three previous fixtures, this game could actually prove to be a pressure-cooker as the Kings are likely to battle it out with their Italian counterparts for the dreaded "Team who conceded the most points in the competition" accolade.

So how do the Kings turn it around? Well, firstly, they need to be smarter in position. A quick glance at last week's stats shows you that they just lost out on the territorial stats while they were pretty much level on possession with their illustrious counterparts. They also made fewer tackles and missed fewer than Munster. With the aforementioned two sentences in mind, it seems the Kings just have to be smarter with the ball and the points will come.

It seems the Italians have come out to South Africa to play. Well, at least judging by what transpired at Toyota Stadium last weekend. Zebre gave as good as they got on their debut in the Republic, running the Cheetahs close in a highly entertaining game of rugby. The 54-39 scoreline may show signs of Cheetahs dominance, but Zebre proved they are I side that won't simply lie down, even if the odds are against them.

Like the Kings, the Italians come into this one off the back of three consecutive losses. Unlike the Kings though, the Italians do have a point to show for their endeavours, which came via a try-scoring bonus point last weekend.

So the Italians proved they can play an expansive game, but I reckon they'll box smart against the Kings and look to play the territorial stakes, which would suit their heavyweight pack down to a tee. It would also force the Kings to give it some air from deep inside their own half which would play right into the visitors' hands.

Verdict: Zebre 26/10
I know I made it seem like there was a simple solution to the Kings problems. And in my mind there is. The only problem is the Kings don't have the players to implement it. Deon Davids is a brilliant coach and he showed he can operate on a shoe-string budget during this year's Super Rugby tournament but he just doesn't have the personnel to turn things around. I mean, Kurt Coleman is no Lionel Cronje. The problems won't resolve themselves this week and the Kings will have endured four defeats by the conclusion of the 80.

Written by Darry Worthington for

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