Kings must toughen up

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iol spt aug29 Kings Gallo Images EP Kings coach Carlos Spencer will be urging his players to avoid soft moments when they attempt to turn around their season in the Currie Cup's premier division against the Lions. Photo by Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images

Port Elizabeth – EP Kings coach Carlos Spencer will be urging his players to avoid “soft moments” when they attempt to turn around their season in the Currie Cup's premier division against the Lions in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

The Kings, back in the top flight after an absence of 12 years, have found it tough going and suffered three straight losses.

They showed better form in stretching the Bulls to a five-point loss at Loftus in Pretoria last weekend and Spencer will be hoping to take the positives from that game into Saturday's return clash with the Lions.

“It was a better performance against the Bulls, but there are still those soft moments which are letting us down,” Spencer said.

“It's something we have been speaking about and it will be imperative that we begin to make the right decisions which have cost us.

“We need to get the balance right between an attacking game and our kicking game; we need to be a bit more patient and learn to make the right decisions.”

Both teams have been hit by late withdrawals with Lions captain Warren Whiteley being recalled to the Springbok squad and experienced Kings centre Tim Whitehead out with a knee injury.

Whiteley is back with the Boks after Willem Alberts failed a fitness test, while Ronnie Cooke will move from wing to centre to replace Whitehead, with Siyanda Grey moving on to the wing.

After their loss to Western Province last week, Lions coach Johan Ackermann made eight changes to his squad, returning several players to their preferred spots after the reshuffle last week when flyhalf Jaco van der Walt was a late withdrawal through injury.

Whiteley's relatively late call-up will need further changes to the forwards after he initially replaced Willie Britz, with Jaco Kriel returning to the side of the scrum in the place of last week's captain Derick Minnie.

At hooker, Armand van der Merwe is drafted in for Robbie Coetzee while Andries Coetzee will run the backline from flyhalf.

Lionel Mapoe moves back to the wing from centre, while Stokkies Hanekom returns to outside centre after playing flyhalf in the loss against Western Province. Alwyn Hollenbach returns to inside centre.

After the Cape Town loss, the Lions will be looking to impose themselves after comfortably handling the Kings in Johannesburg 60-19, and their loose forwards, despite the absence of Whiteley, will again be the key to their success.

It is an area the Kings acknowledge as the Lions' strength and a huge challenge awaits Junior Springbok Aidon Davis and his team-mates Paul Schoeman and Thembelani Bholi.

“The Lions have an outstanding trio of loose forwards,” Davis said.

“All three are good in the lineouts and they live off the loose ball and like to play running rugby.”

Davis has been promoted to the starting line-up in place of Luke Watson, who has been ruled out of action for four weeks after suffering concussion against the Bulls.

“Luke's are big shoes to fill and I am happy to have this chance,” Davis said.– Sapa

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