Friday, September 15, 2017

Preview : Southern Kings v Leinster



Forgive me but I couldn't help checking out a bit of Champions League football during the week - there is literally nothing else on at the same time that doesn't involve house renovation, cooking or celebrities living their lives as if they don't know there's a camera crew filming them.

I was pleased to see Barcelona's Lionel Messi booked for waving an invisible yellow card at the referee after a challenge he didn't like from a Juventus player.  Whatever about the justification for the consequences you're demanding, when it's not your responsibility to dish them out, you're much better off keeping quiet about it.

Leinster Rugby screwed up over the travel logistics for Messrs Nacewa and Gibson-Park.  But it's done, they've owned up, and they've got some rugby to be getting on with down there, so that's the extent of my opinion on the matter [although at least it turns out they plan to re-join the squad with all the t's crossed and i's dotted].  

The negative reactions of rugby fans to the news is to be expected, but what I can't appreciate is those [a minority yes but far from a tiny one] who are actually calling for someone to be fired over it.  Really? THAT'S your first reaction? Maybe the commenters getting fired themselves to match what happened to Messi would be a slight over-reach, but then again, so was the reaction IMO.  Nuff said on that - on to the rugby.

I don't think it's a coincidence that we and Zebre have been chosen as the first two teams to travel to South Africa in the new-look league.  One is among its biggest audience draws, the other, definitely its smallest [hopefully I don't need to point out which is which!] Having the Kings and Cheetahs host them first allows for selling 'two-game packages' which would seek to maximise the bums on seats.

Having seen the attendances, or lack thereof, for Super Rugby over the years in those massive stadia, I certainly can't blame them for doing everything they can.

And having also seen the performances of the two new teams in the opening weeks of the Pro14 campaign, as well as Leinster's own against the Dragons and Cardiff, I think it's reasonable to suggest that a minimum of eight match points should be our target from this historic trip.  Once we make sure the Kiwi duo didn't bring our match readiness back to Dublin with them, even without so many players for so many varying reasons, we should have enough to finish on top, even with a comparatively young squad.

From what I've seen, the Kings' biggest asset is speed particularly from their wingers Penxe and [a name you need to study very carefully before trying to say it out loud] Sithole.  If our tackling behind the gainline is anywhere near that we showed at the RDS we should be able to shut that down, and for this we need Noel Reid to match his club captain's stats in the tackling department.

But for the Kings to use their speed they must first have the ball; although South Africa is a land known for producing tough steely back rowers, we're not doing too badly in that department ourselves.  With stand-in skipper Rhys Ruddock, returning Jordi Murphy and a bang-in-form Jack Conan on breakdown patrol, we'll be expected to do well.

The lineouts.  Please.  Of course I want to win them all but particularly ones in a good attacking position.  My football team Spurs busted a Wembley curse during the week...here's hoping this one that haunts Leinster can go a similar way.

According to the bookies, we should have this one handy - fourteen points is their line.  My Leinster predictions are always made with the assumption that we're slightly below par while the opponents are playing out of their skins.  With that in mind, I'm actually agreeing with the oddsmakers, though I'll fall short of saying we'll get a BP try...don't want to jinx them too much!

Here's to an occasion that will make the South African match-goers feel good about this league, despite their team suffering another loss of course! JLP

PS - don't forget the early kickoff time and as for Friday night rugby look no further than Ulster v Scarlets - both big conference rivals for Leinster.

#COYBIB

Southern Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Sibusiso Sithole, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Rudi van Rooyen,
1 Schalk Ferreira, 2 Micheal Willemse, 3 Luvuyo Pupuma, 4 Stephan Greeff, 5 Dries van Schalkwyk, 6 Khaya Majola, 7 Victor Sekekete, 8 Andisa Ntsila.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Petrus Strauss, 18 Martin Dreyer, 19 Bobby de Wee, 20 Siyabulela Mdaka, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Ntabeni Dukisa/Oliver Zono, 23 Jacques Nel.

Guinness Pro14 2017/18 - Round 3

Saturday, September 16, 2017
KO 1:15pm (Irish time)
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)

AR1: Mike Adamson (SRU). AR2: Cwengile Jadezweni (SARU)
TMO: Johan Greeff (SARU)
SuperSport 1: 2.10pm (SA)
TG4: 1.10pm (UK/Ire)

Also this weekend

Friday, September 15

Dragons v Connacht
Edinburgh v Treviso
Ulster v Scarlets

Saturday, September 15

Ospreys v Munster
Cheetahs v Zebre
Cardiff Blues v Glasgow Warriors
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