Connacht should have too much in hand for Southern Kings
Visiting South Africans have yet to prove they will not be whipping boys of Pro14
Southern King’s Kurt Coleman: one of the visitors auditioning to play in Europe. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Connacht v Southern Kings, Sportsground, Saturday, 7.35pm (TG4)
Having spent the week out west these Port Elizabeth visitors will know all about the victorious Tribesmen. The party continues. A busy Sportsground will get another glimpse of Liam MacCarthy as Galway’s elite sporting talent have been invited to rub shoulders with professional rugby players.
By now somebody is bound to have told Michael Willemse’s Southern Kings that hurling is the reason William Webb Ellis will never make a similar journey.
Not that Connacht should struggle against a team, many of whom are sipping in the last chance saloon of professionalism, set up to be the Pro14 whipping boys deep into the winter months (they should take a few scalps on the sunny Eastern Cape).
As an example, see outhalf Kurt Coleman. After eight years in Cape Town as third choice number 10, and passed over by two men, current Springbok coach Allister Coetzee then Robbie Fleck, this game doubles as an audition to gain a contract in the more lucrative European market.
“It’s a fresh start for me,” said Coleman recently. “I think it’s going to be good for my career just to do something new. The thing that most excites me is playing against different players in different conditions . . . ”
Let’s see how Coleman goes amidst unpredictable Atlantic squalls.
The form of Bundee Aki is more interesting than ever now he’s set to be capped by Joe Schmidt in November. Same goes for Tom McCartney as the tough 31 year old Auckland hooker also qualifies via residency before the Six Nations.
Plenty to play for with nothing shy of victory acceptable.
CONNACHT: T O’Halloran; D Leader, T Farrell, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, T MacCarthy, F Bealham; U Dillane, J Cannon; S O’Brien, J Butler, J Muldoon. Replacements: D Heffernan, D Coulson, C Carey, Q Roux, E Masterson, C Blade, S Crosbie, E Griffin.
SOUTHERN KINGS: M Banda; Y Penxe, B Klaasen, L Vulindlu, S Sithole; K Coleman, G Masimla; S Ferreira, M Willemse, R de Klerk; J van Vuuren, D v Schalkwyk; K Majola, V Sekekete, A Ntsila. Replacements: S Coetzee, L Pupuma, M Dreyer/E Swanepoel, B de Wee, S Mdaka, R van Rooyen, O Zono, J Nel.
Referee: M Adamson (SRU).
Betting: Connacht (-18.5) at 4/5.
Verdict: Connacht win.