The Kings will be keen to build on their recent win over the Waratahs when they take on another Australian side, the Rebels, in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Perennial under-achievers and widely regarded as South Africa’s worst Super Rugby franchise, the Kings caused arguably the biggest upset of the tournament so far when they beat the 2014 champions in Sydney last week.
That result is their second triumph of the season – after they beat the Sunwolves in Round 2 – and is a morale booster for head coach Deon Davids and his charges after impressive performances in losses on their Australian tour to the Western Force and Reds.
By beating the Waratahs, the Kings have already bettered their 2016 effort in the points standings. Last year, they could only amass nine points from 15 matches and they are currently on 10 points after eight games.
One facet of play where the Kings have made a big impact in is winning turnovers. They have won 10.6 turnovers per game this season, the only team to average more than 10 in the competition.
They face a Rebels side who have also come alive in recent weeks. The men from Melbourne notched their first win of the season when they beat Australian rivals the Brumbies in Round 8 and followed that up by claiming a 9-9 draw against the Sharks in Durban last weekend.
That match was a dour affair highlighted by a plethora of unforced errors from both teams. There was little creativity in attack and it was hardly surprising that neither side managed to cross the whitewash during 80 minutes.
Rebels utility back Reece Hodge expects an improved effort on attack this weekend.
“Our attack wasn’t where we thought it was needed on the weekend so we were disappointed not to capitalize on their 14 men for most of the game but our defence was awesome with the attitude and our work for each other,” he said.
“We’ve got some good stuff to build on from the Brumbies and the Sharks going into the Kings so we’re pretty excited and looking forward to the game.
“They’ve just pushed all three Australian games when they were over there and got the result against the Waratahs.”
Despite winning only two matches, the Kings have impressed on attack and have already scored 27 tries which is the seventh highest in the tournament, while the Rebels are the worst performing team in that department with just nine tries so far.
The last time the teams met: The Kings claimed a thrilling 30-27 win in Melbourne in 2013 thanks to a last ditch drop-goal from Demetri Catrakilis. In a tightly contested battle, both sides scored three tries apiece with Ronnie Cooke, Shaun Venter and Wimpie van der Walt crossing the whitewash for the Kings and Ged Robinson, Angus Roberts and Mitch Inman dotted down for the Rebels.
Team news: Southern Kings head coach Deon Davids made just one change to his starting XV that will face the Rebels. In a rotational tweak, Davids has named Martin Bezuidenhout as the side’s starting hooker while Michael Willemse, who produced a star performance in last weekend’s victory in Sydney, provides back-up on the bench this time around. Stefaan Willemse will also return to the team on the bench as back-row cover.
The Rebels have regained valuable experience with four changes to the team for this clash. They welcome back Colby Fainga’a, who remained in Melbourne last week for the birth of his daughter, and Marika Koroibete to the starting line-up after the winger was a late withdrawal from the Sharks game through injury. After he made his first start of the season on the wing against the Sharks last week, Ben Volavola will partner Nic Stirzaker in the halves for the first time after the 26-year-old was named at fly-half following the return of Koroibete.
Form: The Kings lost their opener to the Jaguares in Port Elizabeth before bouncing back with a 37-23 win over the Sunwolves in Singapore in Round 2. After that, they suffered losses to the Stormers, Sharks and Lions in South Africa before heading on their Australian tour where they lost to the Force and the Reds but bounced back with last weekend’s triumph over the Waratahs.
The Rebels made a disastrous start to their campaign losing their first five matches – against the Blues, Hurricanes, Chiefs, Waratahs and Highlanders – before beating the Brumbies in Melbourne in Round 8 and drawing in Durban with the Sharks last weekend.
2013: Kings won 30-27 in Melbourne
Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Justin Forwood
Replacements: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Mzwanele Zito, 20 Stefaan Willemse, 21 Johan Steyn, 22 Nicolaas Hanekom, 23 Pieter-Steyn de Wet
Rebels: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Jake Schatz, 5 Culum Retallick, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Siliva Siliva, 1 Fereti Sa’aga
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Will Miller, 21 Hugh Sinclair, 22 Mick Snowden, 23 Jackson Garden-Bachop
Date: Saturday, April 29
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 19:30 (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Rodney Boneparte (South Africa)
TMO: Christie du Preez (South Africa)