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Southern Kings vs Leinster Rugby
Guinness Pro14, Conference B, Round 3
Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Saturday, 16th September, 14:15 (13:15 Irish Time)

TV: Live on TG4

Leinster will make a small bit of history when they become the first northern hemisphere team to play Pro14 rugby in South Africa. Leinster take on the Kings this Saturday and then the Cheetahs the following Friday. It's fair to say it's been a bit of a baptism by fire for both the South African newcomers so far. The Cheetahs lost to Ulster by 23 points before being hammered 51-18 by Munster last weekend. Similarly, the Kings were hammered 57-10 by the Scarlets, before putting in a slightly better effort only losing to Connacht by 22 points last Saturday.

In defence of the South Africans they have only had a few months to put their squad together. It was well known that they would be cut from Super Rugby back from before the summer and it was no surprise that many players left to secure their livelihoods. So in many ways, they are like a scratch squad starting from the beginning, but the organisers behind their introduction will hope that they are least a little more competitive at home. Compared to the Cheetahs the Kings have a shorter history as they were only formed back in 2009 and have had a troubled eight years dominated by politics within the South African union. They only actually played three seasons in Super Rugby and were only ever fully accommodated when the Super Rugby format bloated to 18 teams. But the expansion was disastrous and it's confusing and tedious nature was a major turn-off for both crowds and TV viewers.

So the Kings will at least be glad now to have a firm future in a competition and this will hopefully provide a base on which to build rugby in the Eastern Cape area. Their coach Deon Davids has named a team showing three changes from last week's defeat to Connacht. At scrumhalf Rudi van Rooyen comes in for Godlen Masimla in the only change to the backline. In the front-row, an injury to Rossouw De Klerk means Luvuyo Pupuma starts at tighthead and Stephan Greeff comes into the second row where he'll partner Dries van Schalkwyk, the hard-running former Zebre player.

Leinster will be hoping to continue their perfect record of 10 points from two games. Two bonus point wins, nine tries scored and only one conceded would indicate that all is well. It rather papers over the cracks though, especially of last week's performance when they were fairly hopeless for the guts of an hour. There was a great impact from the bench with three subs scoring fine tries but Leo Cullen will be looking for a big improvement from the starting fifteen.

Cullen hasn't been helped by the farce of the situation whereby two of his players, skipper Isa Nacewa and Jamison Gibson-Park were refused visas to entry the country and were sent home. The latest is that the two players have now successfully applied for visas and will fly back to South Africa and be available for next week's match against the Cheetahs. So while it's good there's been a positive resolution, it's been an embarrassment for Leinster's administrative side and there needs to be a review of practices to ensure this type of situation doesn't happen again.

Considering Nacewa's absence, it's just as well Noel Reid is fit to return to replace him at inside centre in a starting lineup that shows nine changes from last week. The only other changes in the backline see Joey Carbery and Dave Kearney return from injury to take their places in the back three. In the pack there's an all new and very youthful looking front five with lots of first starts. There's first Leinster starts for Ed Byrne at loosehead prop and for second row tyro James Ryan. There's a first start of the season for second row Ross Molony and while prop Andrew Porter has already made his first Leinster start, this will be the first time starting a match in his converted position of tighthead prop. The experience of hooker Sean Cronin will be heavily leaned on to tie everything together. In the back row Jordi Murphy is fit to start his first rugby match since the win over New Zealand last November in the only change to last week's backrow.

Despite everything, it's still a strong Leinster line-up with eleven Irish internationals starting and four more on the bench. It will be interesting to see how the Kings approach the match in front of their own fans, but Leinster should have enough make it three wins from three.

Team Lineups

Southern Kings

Leinster Rugby
Teams Masixole Banda 15 Joey Carbery
Yaw Penxe 14 Adam Byrne
Berton Klaasen 13 Rory O'Loughlin
Luzuko Vulindlu 12 Noel Reid
Sibusiso Sithole 11 Dave Kearney
Kurt Coleman 10 Ross Byrne
Rudi van Rooyen 9 Luke McGrath

Schalk Ferreira 1 Ed Byrne
Micheal Willemse 2 Sean Cronin
Luvuyo Pupuma 3 Andrew Porter
Stephan Greeff 4 Ross Molony
Dries van Schalkwyk 5 James Ryan
Khaya Majola 6 Rhys Ruddock (C)
Victor Sekekete 7 Jordi Murphy
Andisa Ntsila 8 Jack Conan

Replacements Stephan Coetzee 16 James Tracy
Petrus Strauss 17 Cian Healy
Martin Dreyer 18 Michael Bent
Bobby de Wee 19 Mick Kearney
Siyabulela Mdaka 20
Josh van der Flier
Godlen Masimla 21 Nick McCarthy
Ntabeni Dukisa/Oliver Zono 22 Cathal Marsh
Jacques Nel 23 Jordan Larmour

Not Considered
Due to Injury


Bryan Byrne,
Tom Daly,
Peadar Timmins,
Robbie Henshaw,
Johnny Sexton,
Tadhg Furlong,
Sean O'Brien,
Jamie Heaslip,
Garry Ringrose,
Richardt Strauss,
Rob Kearney,
Dan Leavy,
Ian Nagle,
Fergus McFadden
Officials Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU),
Assistant Referees: Mike Adamson (SRU), Cwengile Jadezweni (SARFU),
TMO: Johan Greeff (SARFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2017-09-15

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