Match Preview: Isuzu Southern Kings
Glasgow Warriors return to Guinness PRO14 action at Scotstoun this Friday, as the Isuzu Southern Kings arrive in Glasgow for the first time since 2017.
After defeat to the Dragons in Newport last Saturday, Dave Rennie and his squad will be hoping to get back to winning ways against their South African opponents under the Friday night lights in Glasgow’s west end.
The men from Port Elizabeth will provide a stern test for the Glasgow defence, having scored at least two tries in each of their matches so far this season despite being winless to start the campaign.
The former Super Rugby outfit have consistently caused problems for their opponents in the Guinness PRO14, so it could be a thrilling encounter at Scotstoun on Friday night.
Here’s how the Kings are shaping up ahead of the encounter:
Kings form guide
Robbi Kempson’s men currently sit bottom of Conference B, with two points from their opening four games of the 2019/20 campaign.
The Kings came agonisingly close to an opening round win against the Cardiff Blues, however – a late Harri Millard try ultimately tipped the balance in favour of the Welshmen, as the Blues emerged victorious 31-27 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
A similarly battling performance once again yielded only defeat in round two, as Munster’s impressive defence kept their hosts at bay in a 31-20 triumph in Port Elizabeth.
Kempson’s men were then blitzed by a determined Ulster side in round three, before narrowly losing out in a thrilling match in Treviso last weekend – a late fightback came up just short as Benetton claimed a 36-30 win in the Italian sunshine.
Amongst a high turnover players, perhaps the most significant departure for Kings fans was that of hooker Mike Willemse, who said his goodbyes to South Africa and made the switch to Edinburgh at the end of the 2018/19 season.
Also departing was highly-rated flanker Andisa Ntsila, who signed for Super Rugby side the Sharks after concluding the campaign, whilst Dries van Schalkwyk also departed the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Behind the scrum, Tristan Blewett moved west to sign for Major League Rugby outfit NOLA Gold in the USA, with Rudi van Rooyen going in the opposite direction by joining Lokomotiv in Russia.
Kempson and his coaching staff have once again recruited shrewdly following their summer departures, most notably with the capture of fly-half Demitri Catrakilis from Harlequins.
Jacques du Toit made the switch from fellow Guinness PRO14 outfit the Toyota Cheetahs to fill the void left by Willemse at hooker, with Juan Schoeman joining from the Sharks to further bolster the front-row options.
Jerry Sexton – brother of Ireland fly-half Johnny – was signed from Jersey Reds, whilst the return of Lusanda Badiyana to the setup proved a timely boost ahead of the new season.
Ones to watch
Capable of playing on the wing and at fly-half, it’s at his usual position of full-back that Masixole Banda can create havoc for any defence. Standing at just 5’5”, the 31-year-old is lightning quick off the mark and can beat any defender in the competition with his footwork if given just an inch of space.
Now in his second spell with the Kings, Catrakilis brings experience and a steady hand to the number ten jersey. In addition to Harlequins, the fly-half can also boast experience with the Stormers and Montpellier, with his accuracy from the kicking tee a major asset for Kempson’s side.
Bobby de Wee is fast becoming one of the most highly-rated players in the Kings setup, with his ability to slot in at second-row or on the flank a useful dynamic to the South African side’s pack. A try-scorer against Benetton, de Wee’s carrying and lineout nous will make him one for the Glasgow forwards to keep a close eye on this Friday.
The Warrior Nation will require no reminding when asked about the most recent meeting between their side and the Kings, as the South Africans stunned the Warriors with a 38-28 victory in Port Elizabeth last September.
Three first-half tries sent the home side into the half-time break with a 24-0 advantage, and despite recording four tries of their own after the break – including a brace for DTH van der Merwe that took him past 50 tries for the club – it was the Kings who emerged with all five points.
That meeting was only the second between the two sides, with the first having gone in the Warriors favour back in October 2017.
George Turner grabbed two of Glasgow’s seven tries in a 43-13 win over the Kings at Scotstoun, in a match that also saw Stafford McDowall make his competitive debut for the club.
Joy Neville will take charge of her first match at Scotstoun on Friday night, as the Irishwoman referees her fifth Guinness PRO14 fixture.
Keith Allen and John Carvill will be her assistants under the floodlights, with Leo Colgan in the broadcast van as the TMO.