These two sides come into this Guinness PRO14 after very different starts. Ulster have taken two close-fought wins over Scarlets and Edinburgh and will be favourites to take this one against a side that are yet to taste victory this season.
Southern Kings have suffered defeats to Zebre and Dragons albeit putting up a real fight last time out. They won just a single match in last year’s regular season but will be relishing the chance of going up against an Ulster side they pushed all the way in South Africa last season.
What’s at stake?
Ulster won a 79-point thriller the first time these two met in South Africa, at the Isaac Wolfson Stadium last November.
Both sides are in Conference B but at opposite ends of the standings, with Ulster second behind Benetton Rugby on points difference while the Kings are chasing their first victory.
Team news (Isuzu Southern Kings):
Deon Davids has made several changes ahead of his side’s third Pro14 fixture of the season and first in front of their home fans.
Fullback, Michael Botha, who was ruled out of last weekend’s match against Dragons due to a groin injury, will be back in the No.15 jersey after making a full recovery.
The versatile Yaw Penxe shifts from the full-back to right wing for the match, replacing Michael Makase, who is out of the match-day squad for this week.
The other change in the backline will see Godlen Masimla starting ahead of Rudi van Rooyen, who moves to the bench, at scrum-half.
Two changes in the Isuzu Southern Kings forwards pack will see the side’s most capped player, Schalk Ferreira, making his first start of the new season at loosehead prop, while John-Charles Astle will start at No5 alongside lock partner Schalk Oelofse.
Team news (Ulster):
Dan McFarland makes three changes to the starting team as Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor and Sean Reidy are all recalled to the starting pack, while the backline remains in situ for the third consecutive game.
O’Toole has recovered from a concussion suffered against Scarlets in Round 1 and takes his place in the front row.
O’Connor joins Kieran Treadwell in the engine room, with Reidy, Marcell Coetzee and Nick Timoney selected in the back row.
Head Coach of Southern Kings Deon Davids said his side need to build on the positives in the opening two weekends defeats.
“This is our first home game for the new season. We are really looking forward to playing in front of our home crowd.
“The guys showed some enthusiasm on the road but were rusty in the first game; and last week we had a very slow start. So now we just have to keep building on the positive stuff.”
Ulster’s head coach Dan McFarland says his team have a lot more to give despite their perfect start to the Pro14 season:
“It’s really good to get the wins. At the start of the season the key thing I was looking for was that competitiveness and fighting mentality.
“I’m pleased so far with where we’re at. It’s certainly not where we’re going to be, but I’m pleased so far.”
Key battle: Masixole Banda vs John Cooney
This match could come heavily down to points scored from the boots of their penalty takers. Ulster have relied on the points of scrum-half John Cooney a great deal in the opening two games. He has scored 35 of their 45 points so far this season and they will be hoping his kicking is similarly reliable in this one. Kings fly-half Masixole Banda is also a reliable kicker, scoring 11 of Kings’ 16 points on the opening day including three penalties.
Key Fact: Southern Kings have been beaten in every Pro14 game stretching back to the 2nd of March when they beat the Dragons 45-13.
Did you know? Ulster scored 102 points against Southern Kings in the two fixtures against them last season which is more than they scored against any other side.
Isuzu Southern Kings: Michael Botha, Yaw Penxe, Harlon Klaasen, Berton Klaasen, Bjorn Basson, Masixole Banda, Godlen Masimla, Schalk Ferreira, Mike Willemse, Luvuyo Pupuma, Schalk Oelofse, JC Astle, Stephan De Wit, Martinus Burger, Andisa Ntsila
Replacements: Alandre Van Rooyen, Xandre Vos, Justin Forwood, Bobby De Wee, Ruaan Lerm, Rudi Van Rooyen, Martin Du Toit, Ntabeni Dukisa
Ulster: Will Addison, Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Stuart McCloskey, Henry Speight, Billy Burns, John Cooney, Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Marcell Coetzee, Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney,
Replacements: Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Wiehahn Herbst, Jean Deysel, Matthew Rea, David Shanahan, Angus Curtis, Angus Kernohan
TV: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth. Live on SuperSport 1, Premier Sports 1 and eir sport 2
Referee: Sam Grove-White (SRU)
Assistant Referees: Ben Whitehouse (WRU) and Ruhan Meiring (SARU)
TMO: Johan Greeffe (SARU)
Second-half tries from Marcell Coetzee, Angus Kernohan and Angus Curtis ensured Ulster continued their perfect start to the Guinness PRO14 season at the expense of the Isuzu Southern Kings.
The Irish province won a 79-point thriller the first time these two met in South Africa last November, but this time around it was an error-strewn encounter.
The boot of John Cooney – so often Ulster’s saviour on their now eight-match unbeaten run in the league that spans the end of last season and the start of this one – kicked three early penalties to open a 9-0 lead.
But the No.9 then went off injured and the Kings were back in the clash in the second half when Mike Willemse went over at the back of a rolling maul.
However, that was as good as it got for the hosts as Coetzee rumbled over from short range before Kernohan went over for his first senior try to seal it.
And there was still time for Curtis to sneak over after a final tip pass from Stuart McCloskey but Ulster now face a tough five-day turnaround before they face the Toyota Cheetahs.
Ulster scored 102 points against the Kings in the two fixtures against them last season which is more than they scored against any other side.
And they hit the lead early on here thanks to the reliable boot of Cooney.
The scrum-half slotted two early penalties on a sunny South African Sunday to open up a 6-0 lead.
The Kings’ discipline, or lack thereof, was their downfall and Tienie Burger saw yellow soon after for numerous team offences.
Cooney then thought he had the game’s first try when he darted over but it was ruled out by the TMO for an illegal clearout from Alan O’Connor who also saw yellow.
With both teams down to 14 men, Ulster struck again through the boot of Cooney to make it 9-0 but the game was end to end but lacking in precision.
Ulster then lost their talisman Cooney to a head injury – replaced by David Shanahan just after the half-hour mark.
The Kings also had a score ruled out for the returned Burger but soon into the second half the hosts got their try.
Their rolling maul has been a weapon at the start of this season and it was Willemse who was again the beneficiary to rumble over and with the conversion slotted, Ulster only led 9-7 with the hour mark approaching.
But in the final quarter, unbeaten Ulster proved their worth with three tries to put the game to bed.
First, after a succession of five-metre scrums and the South Africans on a final warning for a number of penalties, it was Coetzee who rumbled over after picking up at the base of the scrum.
Billy Burns added the extras for a 16-7 lead and the Irish province were not done there, replacement Kernohan sneaking over in the left corner after being fed by Shanahan.
They could have had a third when Sean Reidy burst clear but in the end Curtis went over with the last play of the game, Peter Nelson added the extras and 28-7 it finished – only Ulster’s second away win in the league since December.