Les Kiss prepared for the unexpected despite Kings weak defence
Pro 14 preview: Southern Kings v Ulster, Wolfson Stadium, Port Elizabeth, 3pm, local time/1pm Irish. On TV: Live on BBC NI
Ulster coach Les Kiss: “It’s a very big unknown for us and we’ve got to be prepared for the unexpected.” Photograph: Inpho
A change is as good as a rest, but this applies as much to the Kings as it does to Ulster. Their decision to move this game to the Wolfson Stadium in Kwazakele, Port Elizabeth, is set to ensure an altogether noisier backdrop than was the case for their previous two home games in the Guinness Por12 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
“A crowd of 10 000 can get ‘lost’ in a massive venue like the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, but it would lift the roof off the rafters in a packed Wolfson Stadium,” said Charl Crous, the chief operations officer of the Southern Kings.
In the home team’s expectations of a full house, an understandably wary Les Kiss admitted: “It’s a very big unknown for us and we’ve got to be prepared for the unexpected. With their fan base, the energy is going to be there for them.”
To compound this “unknown”, the surface is sand-based and the afternoon kick-off locally could see temperatures in the mid-20s, and Kiss said they may ask for water breaks.
In the absence of their six Irish squad members and latest casualties Jean Deysel and Rodney Ah You, Ulster are boosted by the return from injury of scrumhalf John Cooney and prop Wiehahn Herbst, as well as Craig Gilroy. After suffering a back injury in pre-season, Gilroy makes his 150th appearance for the province, albeit his first of the season.
The Kings head coach head coach Deon Davids makes three changes from the team beaten 43-13 in Scotstoun last week. Yaw Penxe moves to full back in place of Masixole Banda with Michael Makase on the right wing while Oliver Zono while replaces the injured Martin du Toit at out-half. Hooker Stephan Coetzee comes in for captain Michael Willemse.
The Kings are 7/1 and 18-point underdogs on the handicap, and while Ulster should have enough cutting edge to expose the Kings’ porous defence, this could indeed be trickier than those odds indicate, all the more so with a home referee. SOUTHERN KINGS: Y Penxe; M Makase, B Klaasen, L Vulindlu, A Bock; Oliver Zono, R van Rooyen; S Ferreira (capt), Coetzee, R de Klerk; S Greeff, B de Wee; A Ntsila, J van Vuuren, R Lerm. Replacements: T Balekile, M Majola, M Dreyer, L Welemu, D van Schalkwyk, R Gouws, K Coleman, J Sage. ULSTER: C Piutau; C Gilroy, L Ludik, D Cave, A Trimble; C Lealiifano, J Cooney; A Warwick, J Andrew, W Herbst, K Treadwell, A O’Connor, M Rea, C Henry (capt), S Reidy. Replacements: A McBurney, C Black, R Kane, R Diack, C Ross, J Stewart, P Nelson, T Bowe. Referee: Quinton Immelman (SARU)