Scarlets welcome the Isuzu Southern Kings to Parc y Scarlets (live on S4C, Premier Sports 2 18:30, & SuperSport 1, 19:30) looking to improve on their record of two wins from four.
What’s at stake?
Last season’s Guinness PRO14 finalists Scarlets set high standards but have faced tough opponents thus far, losing to Connacht and Ulster but beating Leinster and Benetton. Last time out was the 33-20 defeat to Connacht at the Sportsground and the Irish province were superb on the day, but Johnny McNicholl scored an excellent try for Scarlets. Meanwhile, the Kings enjoyed a dream Round 4 as they grabbed their first win by beating previously undefeated Glasgow Warriors 38-28 in South Africa.
Team news (Scarlets): Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies returns to action this weekend after suffering a hamstring strain and will lead his side against the Kings. A new-look all-international front row will get a first start this season in Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias and Werner Kruger as head coach Wayne Pivac rotates the squad. Jake Ball and David Bulbring combine in the second row, with Dan Davis coming in to the openside flank alongside Ed Kennedy and Blade Thomson in the back row. Scrum half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne gets his second start of the season as he comes in to partner Rhys Patchell in the half-backs. Ioan Nicholas and Australian centre Paul Asquith come in for their first competitive starts of the season as they line up in the backline alongside the experienced Johnny McNicholl, Clayton Blommetjies and Davies.
Team news (Isuzu Southern Kings): Kings head coach Deon Davids has named an unchanged starting XV to take on Scarlets, making only three changes on the bench. Rossouw de Klerk is the front row backup, Schalk Oelofse covers the second row and there’s a potential debut in the backline for new recruit Tristan Blewett.
Looking ahead to the game, Scarlets head coach Pivac said: “We will be doing our very best to get a much stronger performance this weekend, which we will need to have. We saw the Kings beat a very good Glasgow team on the weekend. If that wasn’t a warning shot I don’t know what is.
“The Kings have probably given everyone a wake-up call with their performance, obviously we play the way we did against Connacht and we’ll find every match tough. We have to keep working hard and make sure that we improve.”
Kings head coach Davids commented: “It is important that we have consistency in place as a team, hence we have stuck to the same starting XV as last week.
“The side played well last week and with each passing week we are improving, particularly in following the game plan and gelling with each other. We are hoping to continue with the good things that we did last week and learn from the areas where we fell short.”
Key battle: Jonathan Davies v Harlon Klaasen
The midfield battle will be a fascinating one at Parc y Scarlets, with Jonathan Davies – widely acclaimed as one of the world’s best centres on his day – coming up against Harlon Klaasen in the 13 channel. Davies is returning from injury but given a tough challenge against the in-form Klaasen. The South African scored a wonderful try against Glasgow last week, assisted by centre partner and namesake Berton Klaasen, and will be out to do more damage in west Wales.
Key fact: The Welshmen are unbeaten at Parc y Scarlets in the Guinness PRO14 since Munster were the visitors in September 2016.
Did you know? Scarlets won both encounters against the Kings last season with a bonus point.
Scarlets: Clayton Blommetjies; Johnny McNicholl, Jonathan Davies (Capt), Paul Asquith, Ioan Nicholas; Rhys Patchell, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Werner Kruger, Jake Ball, David Bulbring, Ed Kennedy, Dan Davis, Blade Thomson
Replacements: Marc Jones, Phil Price, Simon Gardiner, Tom Price, Uzair Cassiem, Kieran Hardy, Angus O’Brien, Steff Evans
Isuzu Southern Kings: Masixole Banda; Yaw Penxe, Harlon Klaasen, Berton Klaasen, Bjorn Basson; Martin Du Toit, Rudi van Rooyen; Schalk Ferreira, Michael Willemse, Luvuyo Pupuma, Bobby De Wee, John-Charles Astle, Henry Brown, Andisa Ntsila, Ruaan Lerm
Replacements: Alandre Van Rooyen, Justin Forwood, Rossouw De Klerk, Schalk Oelofse, CJ Velleman, Godlen Masimla, Ntabeni Dukisa, Tristan Blewett
TV: At Parc y Scarlets, 6.30pm. Live on S4C
Referee: Sean Gallagher (IRFU)
Assistant referees: Mark Patton (IRFU), Simon Rees (WRU)
TMO: Sean Brickell (WRU)
Citing commissioner: Jeff Mark (WRU)
Scarlets skipper Jonathan Davies marked his return from injury after 11 months on the sidelines with two tries in a blowout bonus-point win over Isuzu Southern Kings.
Davies scored twice within the first 25 minutes to help earn victory over the plucky South Africans who were alive and kicking in the contest for an hour.
But Ioan Nicholas’ try just after half-time, created by a typically incisive running line from his captain, broke the back of their challenge and they shipped six tries.
Scarlets earned their third win of the season at Parc Y Scarlets, while Kings were unable to add to their opening success over Glasgow Warriors last weekend.
While pacified on their first entry into Kings territory, Davies led their second break and popped up on the left wing, handing off Martin Du Toit to score on 10 minutes.
Five minutes later it was 14-0, Paul Asquith punching a hole in the visiting defence and crossing the whitewash on his first start of the season.
Kings hit back through former Springbok Bjorn Basson, who was on the end of du Toit’s raking pass and handed off compatriot Clayton Blommetjies to score.
If he was at all concerned at that stage, Wayne Pivac would soon be purring when Davies went over under the posts after a flowing running move in the backs.
The visitors remained undeterred, scoring a stunning second which saw them surge forward from a turnover in their own territory and put Basson into the left corner.
The first-half was action-packed and the second no different, Ioan Nicholas finding space to run 20 metres and dot down for the Scarlets’ fourth and bonus point try.
Only then Kings begun to wilt, home debutant Dan Davis crossing the whitewash among a rolling maul and making it 35-14; Patchell again perfect from the tee.
Another strong rolling maul led to the sixth, replacement Simon Gardiner burrowing over and the try awarded by the TMO.
Steff Evans also came off the bench and got his name on the scoresheet, latching onto an intelligent inside ball to run a seventh in from 25 metres.
And the icing on the cake came when Kieran Hardy crossed on the game’s final play to cap a memorable night for the Scarlets.