Jackman calling on his Dragons to overthrow Kings
BERNARD Jackman wants the Dragons to produce their best performance since he took over the coaching reins of the Gwent region, when they face Southern Kings in Newport tonight (7.35pm)
The former Ireland hooker copped flak from some pundits for making 13 changes to his team ahead of last weekend’s 52-25 Guinness PRO14 walloping at Ulster.
Jackman insisted he was giving members of his squad exposure and a chance to prove they were up to the job with most of the side who had beaten Connacht staying at home for strength and conditioning work.
But his leading lights are back for the Conference B basement battle with South African out-fit Kings bottom of the table after being defeated in all of their four fixtures.
Dragons need to secure victory, probably with a bonus point, to close in on fifth-placed Treviso and fourth-placed Edinburgh.
“It’s huge – we want to make Rodney Parade a fortress,” declared exLeinster and Connacht star Jackman. “We slipped up against Leinster but I thought it was a much better performance against Connacht. The boys who played in that second game are fresh and the majority of them feature against the Kings.
“They’ve had a two-week preparation for this game and I’m looking forward to seeing them go out there and put in our best performance of the season.
“We want them to get the crowd involved again and feed off it because the atmosphere against Connacht was fantastic.
“We produced a display which built a connection with our supporters and that will be a goal again. We are trying to build a team the fans can relate to and be a part of.”
Dragons are without former Wales Under-20 No.8 star Harri Keddie, who injured a shoulder against Connacht and will be out for several months out following surgery.
Ollie Griffiths, James Benjamin and James Thomas are the only fit back-row options with openside flanker Nic Cudd sidelined longterm with a serious knee injury and No.8 Robson Blake having suffered a collarbone injury at Ulster.
Former captain Lewis Evans is on the comeback trail from a pre-season Achilles injury and is targeting an October return, openside Nic Cudd is likely to be out for the season because of knee ligament damage and number eight Robson Blake suffered a collarbone injury in Belfast.
Max Williams, 19, has appeared three times this season while Lennon Greggains, 18, made his PRO14 debut off the bench regional against Ulster while Aaron Wainwright, 20, has been named in Jackman’s squad for the European Challenge Cup.
Carl Meyer is at full-back against the Kings with South Africa international Zane Kirchner expected to be sidelined for the rest of the year following an operation on the shoulder he dislocated against Connacht.
Thomas is at blindside flanker for Keddie while Matthew Screech partners captain Cory Hill at lock.
Kings coach Deon Davids has handed a starting place to Jacques Nel at centre, veteran finisher Alshaun Bock replaces Sibusiso Sithole on the left wing and Godlen Masimla takes over at scrum-half from the injured Rudi van Rooyen.
Martin Dreyer starts at prop, Bobby De Wee at lock and former Zebre player Dries Van Schalkwyk at No.8 with Andile Ntsila moving to flanker and Jurie van Vuuren coming in at No.7.
Dragons: C Meyer; A Hewitt, T Morgan, J Dixon, H Amos; G Henson, S Pretorius; B Harris, E Dee, L Brown, M Screech, C Hill (capt), J Thomas, J Benjamin, O Griffiths. Subs: E Shipp, T Davies, L Fairbrother, J Davies, A Wainwright, D Blacker, A O’Brien, T Palamo.
Southern Kings: M Banda; Y Penxe, J Nel, B Klaasen, A Bock; P Steyn de Wet, G Masimla; S Ferreira, M Willemse (capt), M Dreyer, S Greeff, B de Wee, A Ntsila, D van Schalkwyk, J van Vuuren. Subs: S Coetzee, R de Klerk, E Swanepoel, L Mtyanda, K Majola, R Gouws, O Zono, L Vulindlu.