Leinster make the long away trip to Port Elizabeth as they prepare to face the Isuzu Southern Kings in what is a top versus bottom clash in the Guinness PRO14’s Conference B.
The Irish side – reigning Guinness PRO14 champions – have lost only once in the competition since April and having made an imperious start to their campaign and the Kings face a daunting task when Leo Cullen’s men come to town.
But the Kings will take heart from their win over Conference A pacesetters Glasgow Warriors in September and an encouraging performance against the impressive Scarlets last weekend.
What’s at stake?
For Leinster, it’s about preserving their lead at the top; heading into the fixture they currently boast a five-point advantage over nearest rivals Scarlets, and will be keen to preserve – if not extend that gap.
The Kings, however, will look to claim an historic scalp – one that would serve them well as they look to climb the table.
They are locked level with the Dragons on nine points, with Deon Davids’ side preparing for a run of crunch fixtures that could decide their season.
Team news (Southern Kings): Davids has made six changes to the team that lost out 41-34 to Scarlets last time out, with new recruit Stefan Ungerer in line for a starting berth to make his Guinness PRO14 debut.
Tertius Kruger, who impressed in last weekend’s defeat, starts at inside centre alongside Harlon Klaasen, while Michael Makase comes in for Bjorn Basson on the wing.
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Deon Davids has named his Isuzu Southern Kings team to take on @leinsterrugby, with Stef Ungerer coming in for his first #GUINNESSPRO14 appearance.#KINvLEI#IsuzuSouthernKings pic.twitter.com/YhJ14GiTCG
— Isuzu Southern Kings (@SouthernKingsSA) November 2, 2018
In the pack Stephan Greeff comes into the second row with Schalk Oelofse rested, and Martinus Burger starts at blindside flanker.
Team news (Leinster): Scott Fardy captains Cullen’s side for the first time as seven new faces make the starting XV.
Ed Byrne and Michael Bent start either side of hooker James Tracy in the front row, while Ross Molony comes in behind them.
Among the backs, Conor O’Brien gets the nod at 12 after scoring last weekend, with Noel Reid coming it at scrum-half.
Southern Kings Head Coach Deon Davids said: “This match is an important one for us as we are playing one of the strongest sides in the Guinness PRO14.
“Squad depth is important in this championship and we are happy to be able to select a strong side despite some of the injury setbacks.
“I am looking forward to a hard and exciting match on Sunday, and eagerly await to see my players continuing to show the passion, skill and commitment that we are trying to build in this team.”
Yaw Penxe v Adam Byrne
Former sevens star Byrne opened the scoring for Leinster last weekend as they ran in four tries in their win over Benetton.
And with the introduction of Michael Makase at right wing, Yaw Penxe has been moved across to the left.
High-scoring Leinster rely on their deadly ability from wide areas, and Byrne’s game is no different, so Penxe will have to be on song to stop the Irish flyer.
“It’s exciting for the squad as there are new lads and fresh faces in. They’re going to get an opportunity. It’s a young team and it will be a big test.”@thelock112 previews #KINvLEI ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/s0YrAxn62H
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) November 2, 2018
Key stat: Leinster have twice before visited South Africa, beating the Kings across town at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium but losing to Cheetahs up in Bloemfontein, both in September 2017.
Did you know? Southern Kings record against Irish provinces in the Guinness PRO14 is played seven, lost seven.
Southern Kings: Masixole Banda, Michael Makase, Harlon Klassen, Tertius Kruger, Yaw Penxe, Martin du Toit, Stephan Ungerer; Schalk Ferreira, Arlandre van Rooyen, Justin Forwood, Stephan Greeff, John-Charles Astle (c), Stephan de Wit, Martinus Burger, Ruaan Lerm
Replacements: Tango Balekile, Luphumlo Mguca, Nicolaas Oosthuizen, Dries van Schalkwyk, CJ Velleman, Godlen Masimla, Berton Klassen, Meli Rokoua
Leinster: Dave Kearney, Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin, Conor O’Brien, Joe Tomane, Noel Reid, Jamison Gibson-Park; Ed Byrne, James Tracy, Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Scott Fardy (c), Josh Murphy, Dan Leavy, Max Deegan
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Peter Dooley, Vakh Abdaladze, Mick Kearney, Caelan Doris, Hugh O’Sullivan, Ciaran Frawley, Tom Daly
TV: At Madibaz Stadium, Port Elizabeth, 7.45pm (BST). Live on SuperSport, eir Sports and Premier Sports
Referee: Lloyd Linton (25th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Ben Crouse, Paul Mente
Citing Commissioner: Willhelm de Villiers
TMO: Johan Greeff
Munster roared back in the closing moments to claim an incredible 30-26 win over Toyota Cheetahs.
Mike Haley sealed the win late on despite a stunning fightback from the Cheetahs to push the Irishmen to the final seconds of the match.
The victory ensured that Munster avoided losing to the South African’s for the first time since they joined the Guinness PRO14.
Toyota Cheetahs showed all the initiative in the early stages and their pace proved too much for Munster when Rhyno Smith cut through the Munster lines. But it came to nothing as Sibhale Maxwane couldn’t handle what looked to be a simple pass to open the scoring.
However, it was the Irish province that put the first points on the board through Bill Johnson’s successful penalty after 11 minutes and they soon had their first try following a collapsed Cheetahs scrum.
Munster opted to take the penalty quickly and Arno Botha showed a brilliant piece of initiative to wrestle the ball over the whitewash and put Munster 8-0 ahead after 15 minutes in Bloemfontein.
Franco Smith’s men were handed a way back into the game when South African Chris Cloete was sin-binned for kicking the ball in an offside position and Cheetahs were rewarded from the subsequent line-out when Joseph Dweba powered through from the ranks to score.
But Munster managed to hold on and they added to their lead when Kevin O’Byrne found a gap from the scrum to dot down. Johnson’s conversion ensured Munster went in 15-5 up at half-time.
Munster started the second-half in the same manner as the first, completing a stunning flowing move to go further ahead when Liam Coombes ran in down the right wing.
However, the Cheetahs didn’t give in easily and prop forward Ox Nche reduced the deficit from a smart short line-out to power over the line. Tiaan Schoeman kicked for two.
And another piece of individual brilliance brought the home crowd to their feet as Dweba scored his second try of the match thanks to a stunning incisive run from Shaun Venter.
The South-African outfoxed two players to find a gap in the line before racing through and chucking the ball over to Dweba to round off the move. Schoeman reduced the deficit to three points.
The fightback was completed on 63 minutes when Cheetahs scored their fourth try of the match with the fly-half breaking from 60 yards out before laying in Smith for his first try of the season.
Schoeman was unable to convert and it later cost them as Munster didn’t wilt under pressure and Haley drifted in to score the crucial game winning fourth try. Rory Scannell ensured the win with four minutes left from the tee.