Port Elizabeth – The EP Kings will be looking for greater control from the outset as they chase their first victory in the Currie Cup premier rugby division when they host the Blue Bulls in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
Coach Carlos Spencer's team have lost five matches on the trot in their return to the domestic top-flight and they are desperate to turn things around.
One of their problems has been conceding early points and Spencer has urged his team to avoid falling into the trap of having to play catch-up rugby.
“In all five games we have fallen behind easily so we have always been in a position where we are chasing the game and, unfortunately, we are not good enough at the moment to put ourselves in that position,” Spencer said.
“We have a chance to turn the season around so people will remember us for the five weeks coming not the five weeks that have already been.”
The Kings delivered one of their better performances against the Bulls in their Loftus encounter, losing by just five points. Spencer believes a win is essential to boost the team's confidence.
“Winning and losing becomes a habit and at the moment we need that win and it is massively important. The pressure is on us this week, like it has been every week,” Spencer said.
“I always knew this was going to be a big challenge for us and my belief and faith has not changed one percent.
“We need to stick to our guns and keep working at it. It will come and once that first win comes this team will be away. Trust me. We just need that first win.”
Kings skipper Steven Sykes said his team were expecting a physical battle against the Bulls.
“The guys will be fired up and we love playing at home. It is always a nice crowd so we are looking forward to that. We are expecting a physical game and they can expect one from us as well, so it will be a nice challenge,” Sykes said.
The Bulls, meanwhile, will be looking to impose their authority on the home side as they strive to build on last weekend's win over the Lions.
Their attacking qualities have been boosted by the return of ace wings Akona Ndungane and Bjorn Basson, and they will be aiming to keep the pressure on the home side.
“Akona and Bjorn are old campaigners and it is great to get them back as a pair,” Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said.
“They have put together some great performances for us in the past and it is a vital time for them to return this weekend.”
Despite having their spirits lifted by the Lions triumph, Ludeke knows there are no easy games in the competition and is preparing for a tough Kings challenge.
“We want to repeat what we achieved against the Lions, but we know the EP Kings have similar strengths and like to move the ball. They are a dangerous side,” he said.
“That will be the challenge for us. It is vital for us to be consistent in our performance and to play consistently well, then you give yourself the opportunity to get the result as well.
“We have finally picked up some momentum in the competition and it is important to keep that going.”
EP Kings: Lizo Gqoboka, Edgar Marutlulle, CJ van der Linde, David Bulbring, Steven Sykes (captain), Shaun McDonald, Devin Oosthuizen, Paul Schoeman, Kevin Luiters, Gary van Aswegen, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Shane Gates, Tim Whitehead, Ronnie Cooke, Scott van Breda.
Replacements: Mike van Vuuren, Simon Kerrod, BG Uys, Darron Nell, Stefan Willemse, Tobie Botes, Ntabeni Dukisa.
Blue Bulls: Ulrich Beyers, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Burger Odendaal, Bjorn Basson, Jacques Louis Potgieter, Piet van Zyl, Jono Ross, Jacques du Plessis, Deon Stegmann (captain), Grant Hattingh, Paul Willemse, Werner Kruger, Bongi Mbonambi, Dean Greyling.
Replacements: Bandise Maku, Basil Short, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Jacques Engelbrecht, Rudy Paige, Tian Schoeman/Tony Jantjies, William Small-Smith. – Sapa