Port Elizabeth – Fresh off a successful overseas tour, the Southern Kings know they must get back to earth quickly for their second SA derby showdown of the season against the Bulls in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The Vodacom Super Rugby rookies achieved their aim of securing one win overseas when they scraped home against the Melbourne Rebels last week after shocking many critics by holding the Brumbies to a draw in the previous round.
And while the Kings, lying bottom of the SA conference standings, are back on home turf, the programme does not get much easier as the Bulls, South Africa's most successful Super Rugby franchise, prepare to build on the win they registered against the Cheetahs last week.
Many teams would have been alerted already to the resilience of the Kings outfit and Bulls captain Pierre Spies admitted they were in for a tough game.
“I think they've been going really well this season,” Spies said.
“For us, it's been the same approach. We assess every team we play against and we've done the same with the Kings.
“We've assessed their strengths. They obviously play with some passion and have got some good momentum on tour.
“But we also had a great win against the Cheetahs. It was a very good win for us, very important, so we're going down to PE knowing what's waiting for us.”
The Kings, on the other hand, realise they will have to up their physical commitment to match the style of the Bulls.
“Not much has changed in the way the Bulls have played over the past couple of years,” said vice-captain Andries Strauss.
“It is always going to be a physical challenge and if you do not stand up to that and match it, you do not have a chance to win the game.”
Besides handling the Bulls in the physical stakes, the Kings were also planning to add further attacking finesse to their game, which has been based largely on defence so far.
“Defence is one of the pillars we base our game on and we devoted a lot of time to it during the pre-season,” Strauss said.
“The results speak for themselves even though we did slip up in a some games.
“But we had to develop a more attacking style as the season progressed and that has happened. It is good to have the ball in hand and not to have to tackle for 80 minutes.”
The Kings welcome back regular skipper Luke Watson after a lengthy injury layoff and the loose forward said he believed any team was beatable.
“We understand that we are the new kids on the block against guys who have been around for a long time, but any team is beatable,” he said.
“But they are a strong side and play really good rugby so we know it is going to be hard.” – Sapa