ULSTER FEAR KINGS AMBUSH
High hopes as home team go all out against Ulster at Wolfson
IF everything goes according to coach Deon Davids’s battle plan, the Southern Kings will end their losing run and be crowned “Kings of the Kasi” at the Wolfson Stadium today.
It will require a giant-killing act for the struggling Kings to topple Ulster, but the winless side are hoping a partisan home crowd and some team changes work magic in Kwazakhele.
Ulster coach Les Kiss has expressed fears that his team could be walking into an ambush after the game was switched from the state-of-the-art Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium to the more compact Wolfson field.
“We might be walking into some form of ambush, but it’s an interesting situation,” Kiss said of the change of location.
“I think it’s a great move by them. Would we have preferred to play at the other stadium? Probably. But this is the reality of it,” Kiss said.
So far the Kings have struggled to make any headway in the PRO14, losing all seven of their opening seven games.
“It is fantastic to take the guys out to go and play in the community,” Davids said. “It excites me in the sense that we have this privilege to go and showcase our talent and bring rugby of a high level closer to the young people. We want the people of the Eastern Cape to become the best that they can be. The Kings want to give youngsters an idea that this is within their reach.
“This close contact, and being there and seeing their heroes in person, allows young people to match themselves up against them. For me that is part of the picture and why we are here to ensure that we grow the game.
“You cannot grow the game if you are not willing to engage and move closer. The Kings are looking forward to this.
“I have seen it when we played overseas where we do not play in big stadiums. South Africa have big stadiums.
“Overseas there are small stadiums. It is like the SWD Districts Stadium or the Boland Stadium overseas and they are packed and there is a nice vibe to play in.
“I think this is what we want and what we are striving to do. If we can get a lot people there it will be a good inspiration.
“It will be the right step in filling up the stadium again going forward. Let’s start in small patches and work from there.”
New Kings skipper Schalk Ferreira, who takes the place of injured Michael Willemse, is also looking forward to playing in Kwazakhele.
“I think it is one of the biggest problems in South Africa that we have these huge stadiums and you put 15 000 into a stadium and it looks empty and you lose the atmosphere,” Ferreira said.
“I have played a lot in smaller stadiums in Europe and have seen the impact the crowd has. We see the 50/50 calls go to the home team because the crowd has an impact.
“If there is a very slight high tackle there is a roar in the stadium and it plays on the referee. It has a big impact. “It has a downside to the visiting team and an upside to the home team. We get energy from it. Every time there is a line break by the home side there is a roar. In your mind it plays a role.” When Davids issues his lastminute instructions inside the Wolfson Stadium dressing room this afternoon he will exhort his players to cut out fundamental errors. Davids knows that his team’s season will probably be defined by the way they shape up in their next three home matches against Ulster, Scarlets and Edinburgh before the festive season break. Today’s teams: Southern Kings (nos 15 to 9): Yaw Penxe, Michael Makase, Berton Klaasen, Luzuko Vulindlu, Alshaun Bock, Oliver Zono, Rudi van Rooyen. (nos 1 to 8): Schalk Ferreira (capt), Stephan Coetzee, Rossouw de Klerk, Stephan Greeff, Bobby de Wee, Andisa Ntsila, Jurie van Vuuren, Ruaan Lerm. Replacements: (nos 16 to 23) Tango Balekile, Mazamo Majola, Martin Dreyer/ Luvuyo Papuma, Lindokuhle Welemu, Dries van Schalkwyk, Rowan Gouws, Kurt Coleman, Jarryd Sage. Ulster (nos 1-8): Andy Warwick, John Andrew, Wiehahn Herbst, Kieran Treadwell, Alan O’Connor, Matty Rea, Chris Henry (captain), Sean Reidy; (nos 9-15): John Cooney, Christian Lealiifano, Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Louis Ludik, Craig Gilroy, Charles Piutau. Replacements (16-23): Adam McBurney, Callum Black, Ross Kane, Robbie Diack, Clive Ross, Jonny Stewart, Peter Nelson, Tommy Bowe. Referee: Quinton Immelman The match will be shown live on SS1 at 3pm.
ON TENTERHOOKS: Oliver Zono gets set for action at the Kings’ practice session at the Wolfson Stadium in Kwazakhele