One week it's the south of France. The next, it's northern Italy. Now it's either Midwest USA or Eastern Province in South Africa. I've said it before an I'll say it again…the past few weeks have seen Leinster players go on quite the road trip.
And of all the fixtures in this set, it could be argued that Sunday lunchtime’s date with the Southern Kings will be a forgettable exercise into the grand scheme of things. But I very much doubt Leinster's coaching staff will be treating it that way.
It may be hard to believe but we're already one third of the way through the Guinness Pro14 regular season. So even beyond all the trite clichés like ‘every match counts’, if your goal is to finish in top spot in your conference to enjoy the week off and home emifin that comes with it, it's matches like this one where the crucial points can be won.
And thanks to Edinburgh's win over the Scarlets last night, with us already having a gap of over EIGHTY in the points difference column, a maximum haul of match points from this trip will guarantee a cushion of at least eight over our rivals and that is definitely something to go for.
Yes, we have sent a squad that is virtually reserve grade. And yes, while the Southern Kings were defeated last week by the Scarlets, they showed that with players like fullback Maxisole Banda they can score from virtually anywhere on the park. But that just adds fuel to the motivation that the coaches will need to drill into the players on the flight down.
I love that Scott Fardy is captain. Just the ‘lead by example’ kinda guy you need for a mission like this one. And alongside him in the second row, Ross Molony, who has been kind of stuck in neutral lately due to injury and others passing him by…this pair should really be targeting full ownership of lineouts with and without the throw.
Then there's Noe Reid at out half. Did any of us have him in the frame to wear 10 for us at any stage this season? I wonder was this always going to happen or has he worked closely with Dr Phil? Whatever the reason it's a position he knows yet it's also one he abandoned for a long time so it will be interesting to see how he goes, and with Gibson-Park showing a lot of initiative at 9 this could be an approach we're not used to seeing from Leinster, though that doesn't mean it won't produce results.
Many an eyebrow was raised at Dan Leavy's name being included as he will surely be needed in a green jersey over the coming weeks. But in a land known for boisterous back rows he'll definitely come in handy.
I'm particularly excited about this centre pairing. Conor O’Brien is long overdue a run in the side and from what I have seen of him he can be a great backup to Robbie Henshaw if not more. But no matter how much this 10/12/13 combo can bring offensively, as ever with Leinster there will be as much attention on how they fare without the ball.
The bench has much youth but I particularly like the front row of Dooley, Byrne and Abdaladze, I really think they can do a job for us in the closing stages when hopefully we'll be looking for scores in a good way.
While I do like to watch a good defensive shift being the nerd that I am, in this case I have to honestly say I'm not too pushed about the margin of victory once we bring home the five points. So that's my prediction, though it is more of a challenge. Here's hoping they can rise to it. JLP
Southern Kings (surname first) : 15 Banda Masixole 14 Makase Michael 13 Klaasen Harlon 12 Kruger Tertius 11 Penxe Yaw 10 Du Toit Martin 9 Ungerer Stefan
1 Ferreira Schalk 2 Van Rooyen Alandre 3 Forwood Justin 4 Greeff Stephan 5 Astle John-Charles © 6 De Wit Stephan 7 Burger Martinus 8 Lerm Ruaan
Substitutes 16 Balekile Tango 17 Mguca Lupumlo 18 Oosthuizen Nicolaas 19 Van Schalkwyk Andries 20 Velleman Cyril-John 21 Masimla Godlen 22 Klaasen Berton 23 Rokoua Meli
Guinness Pro 14 2018/19 Round 8
Sunday, November 4, 2018
KO : 12:45pm (Irish time)
Madibaz Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Referee: Lloyd Linton (SRU)
AR1: Ben Crouse (SARU)
AR2: Paul Mente (SARU)
TMO: Johann Greeffe (SARU)
Live on SuperSport 1, eir sport 1 & Premier Sports 1