Kiss prepared for the unexpected as porous Kings change venue
Tonight Southern Kings v Ulster Rugby Wolfson Stadium, Port Elizabeth, 3pm local/1pm Irish, BBC NI
A change is as good as a rest, but this applies as much to the Kings as it does to Ulster. Their decision to move this game to the Wolfson Stadium in Kwazakele, Port Elizabeth, is set to ensure an altogether noisier backdrop than was the case for their previous two home games in the Guinness Por12 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
“A crowd of 10 000 can get ‘lost’ in a massive venue like the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, but it would lift the roof off the rafters in a packed Wolfson Stadium,” said Charl Crous, the chief operations officer of the Southern Kings.
In the home team’s expectations of a full house, an understandably wary Les Kiss admitted: “It’s a very big unknown for us and we’ve got to be prepared for the unexpected. With their fan base, the energy is going to be there for them.”
To compound this “unknown”, the surface is sand-based and come kick-off temperatures in the mid-20s, and Kiss said they may ask for water breaks.
In the absence of their six Irish squad members and latest casualties Jean Deysel and Rodney Ah You, Ulster are boosted by the return of scrumhalf John Cooney and prop Wiehahn Herbst, as well as Craig Gilroy.
The Kings coach Deon Davids makes three changes from the team beaten 43-13 in Scotstoun last week. Yaw Penxe moves to fullback in place of Masixole Banda with Michael Makase on the right wing while Oliver Zono while replaces the injured Martin du Toit at outhalf. Hooker Stephan Coetzee comes in for Michael Willemse.
While Ulster should have enough cutting edge to expose the Kings’ porous defence, this could indeed be trickier than expected, all the more so with a home referee.