The Kings will be determined to build on their impressive form of late when they host Australian Conference leaders the Brumbies in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The home side have been the tournament’s surprise package in 2017 and head into this encounter full of confidence as they are currently on a three-match winning streak – after wins over the Waratahs, Rebels and Sharks – which is the franchise’s best run in the tournament since their debut campaign in 2013.
Kings head coach Deon Davids deserves plenty of credit for the turnaround in his his side’s fortunes. Davids has transformed the Kings from no-hopers into a genuine giant-killing act and last weekend’s thrilling 35-32 home victory over the Sharks is arguably the greatest result in the franchise’s history.
That victory means they have now won four out of 10 matches so far this season and puts them in a respectable 11th position in the overall standings and, interestingly, level on points (19) with the Brumbies.
The Kings’ recent success is largely due to their fast-paced style of play which has caught their opponents napping and which has yielded 37 tries so far this season which is the eighth highest in the entire competition.
The Brumbies, by contrast, have only scored 25 tries which places them in 15th position from the 18 teams in the competition. The Kings are also in eighth spot for defenders beaten (217) while the Brumbies are 17th in this department (173).
The Brumbies might be sitting at the top of their country’s Conference but they are the best of a poor group of Australian sides. The two-time champions have won just three matches and all those encounters were against Australian opposition.
Back-row Jordan Smiler is under no illusions about the task which awaits his side and expects a tough assignment against their hosts.
“The most dangerous thing about the Kings is that they have nothing to lose,” he said.
“Obviously, there have been stories that the franchise is under the threat and that these guys are playing for their livelihood and that makes them a difficult proposition.
“They will play with no fear and they will be a dangerous team to face and will enjoy their rugby. We need a couple of wins while we are away and we will be facing a good team, and a bunch of boys who will be out there to enjoy their football.
“They are all must-win games as we are only just ahead at the top of the Australian Conference. To put ourselves into a better position we need to win these next games to get further ahead on the table.”
The last time the teams met: The Kings outscored the Brumbies four tries to two to claim a dramatic 28-all draw when these sides met in 2013. Cornell du Preez led the way for the visitors with a brace of tries with Schalk Ferreira and Wimpie van der Walt scoring their other five-pointers. Henry Speight and Joe Tomane scored the Brumbies’ tries. Du Preez’s second try was scored in the game’s dying moments and Demetri Catrakilis secured the draw for the Kings when he slotted the resulting conversion kick.
Team news: Kings head coach Deon Davids has made three changes to his side after last weekend’s triumph over the Sharks. The in-form Super Rugby franchise will be without hard-working flanker Chris Cloete (concussion) and full-back Masixole Banda (hamstring) this week, with Stefan Willemse and Chrysander Botha starting in their place. Meanwhile, Wilhelm van der Sluys suffered a groin injury in training this week so Lubabalo Mtyanda comes into the side in the locks.
Form: The Kings are on a three-match unbeaten run after notching wins against the Waratahs, Rebels and Sharks. They also beat the Sunwolves in Round 2 and suffered losses to the Jaguares, Stormers, Lions, Sharks (in Durban), Force and Reds.
The Brumbies secured wins against the Western Force, Waratahs and Reds. They also suffered defeats to the Crusaders, Sharks, Highlanders, Rebels, Hurricanes, Blues and Lions.
2013: The teams drew 28-28 in Canberra
Kings: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Alshaun Bock, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronje (c), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Stefan Willemse, 5 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Schalk van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Mzwanele Zito, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Johan Steyn, 22 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 23 Nicolaas Hanekom
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Aidan Toua, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter (c), 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-rea, 1 Ben Alexander
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Leslie Leulua’iali’i-makin, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 De Wet Roos, 22 Andrew Muirhead, 23 Andrew Smith
Date: Saturday, May 20
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 19:30 local time (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Rodney Boneparte (South Africa)
TMO: Christie du Preez (South Africa)