Port Elizabeth – The Southern Kings will be hoping some exciting displays from their backline will bear fruit when they tackle arguably their toughest Super Rugby warm-up match against the Stormers at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Friday (kick-off 7pm).
This is the third big match in a row for coach Robbi Kempson's team and the former Springbok prop said this week they were under no illusions about the size of the challenge which awaited them.
“No offence to the other teams (Cheetahs and Lions), but I think the Stormers are a completely different kettle of fish,” Kempson said.
“The Stormers are a thoroughly professional outfit with depth that most provinces don't have. This will be an exceptionally competitive game for us.”
However, the Kings camp will take heart from Lions coach Johan Ackermann's comments after the Johannesburg franchise came up with a 19-12 win in last weekend's friendly.
“I was very impressed with the Kings backline and you could see the touch of their (backline) coach Carlos Spencer coming through,” Ackermann said.
“The Kings threw the ball around nicely and you could see the guys were prepared to take a chance.”
In the Stormers, the Kings will face one of the tightest defences in the Super Rugby competition and the attacking qualities of exciting young talents such as wing Sergeal Petersen and fullback Shakes Soyiswapi will come sharply into focus against such experienced opponents.
Equally, the Kings will need to be at their sharpest on defence to prevent their opponents from running away with the game.
The Kings have made a few changes in the backline to give Spencer more exposure to the talent at his disposal and the ex-New Zealand flyhalf will surely be urging his charges to take the fight to the Stormers.
There will be in interesting meeting of familiar faces with flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, who was such an integral part of last year's Southern Kings Super Rugby squad, ready to make his mark for the Western Cape franchise.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has a number of options for his halfback pairings, with Nick Groom and Louis Schreuder vying for the scrumhalf berth, and Catrakilis, Gary van Aswegen and Peter Grant all in line for the pivot's position.
“It's too early to say what our perfect halfback combination is at this stage,” Coetzee said.
“We will weigh up all aspects such as the opposition and the type of game we want to play.”
Catrakilis is set to start on Friday night and a good performance by him could give him the inside lane for the Super Rugby competition starting later in February.
The Kings, meanwhile, will be doing the best to unsettle their former colleague, knowing that breakdown in that crucial position is their best chance of coping with what is shaping up as a daunting Stormers challenge.
The home side have not been disgraced in their first two matches. A win may be unrealistic, but they would like nothing better than to extend that fighting record on Friday.
As Kempson said this week: “We are not here just to make up the numbers.” – Sapa