A new season brings fresh optimism in the Guinness PRO14 as Isuzu Southern Kings travel to Parma to take on Zebre.
The Kings will be hoping to get their season off to a flyer while Zebre are looking to build on their record from the last campaign on Friday night at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
What’s at stake?
This is the one and only time these two will face off in the Guinness PRO14 with Zebre in Conference A and the Kings in Conference B respectively.
A solid end to last season from the Italians will have Michael Bradley’s side feeling hopeful of a surge up the table.
Meanwhile, the Kings had one victory in a testing maiden season in the competition but the addition of new faces has given the South Africans confidence that this campaign will be different.
Team news (Zebre)
Zebre lost their final pre-season match to Italian rivals Benetton Rugby and coach Bradley makes one change to the XV, bringing in lock Leonard Krumov for the injured Giovanni Lacata as David Sisi drops into the back row.
The Italian side have been very active this summer and four of their 11 signings are on the bench.
Francois Brummer, Massimo Ceciliani, Giosue Zilocchi and Apisai Tauyavuca are all primed to make their debuts in a Zebre jersey.
Team news (Kings)
The Kings are another side that have recruited heavily, bringing in 13 new faces to Port Elizabeth.
And six of those will be with be in the squad with full-back Michael Botha, lock Schalk Oelofse and flanker Henry Brown in the starting XV as JC Astle, Ulrich Beyers and Luphumlo Mguca are named amongst the replacements.
Southern Kings head coach Deon Davids said: “We’ve had some really good sessions despite the very warm and humid conditions being experienced in this part of the world at the moment.
“We are preparing for a very physical and high-tempo challenge from Zebre. They have lots of experience and play in front of a very passionate crowd but if we focus on ourselves then I believe we have what it takes to win.”
“Every single one of them has earned their place in the team and they help us in broadening our base of experience within the squad,” he added.
Key battle – Mattia Bellini v Yaw Penxe
A pivotal clash awaits in Parma where the game could be decided by one of these jet-healed wingers.
Italian international Mattia Bellini dotted down eight times for Zebre in the last campaign as the side won seven of their 21 league games.
There’s been a few changes around the Kings but Yaw Penxe still remains a key cog in Port Elizabeth.
The 21-year-old was the Kings’ top try scorer in 2017/18, crossing the whitewash five times and the they will need him firing on all cylinders if they are to get off to a winning start.
Zebre’s season-ending run of three straight victories, over Benetton, Ospreys and Dragons, was their best-ever sequence in the Guinness PRO14.
Did you know?
This is the first time the Southern Kings have played in Parma against Zebre.
ZEBRE: Matteo Minozzi, Mattia Bellini, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Castello, Giovanbattista Venditti, Carlo Canna, Marcello Violi, Andrea Lovotti, Oliviero Fabiani, Dario Chistolini, Leonard Krumov, George Biagi, David Sisi, Johan Meyer, Renato Giammarioli
Replacements: Massimo Ceciliani, Daniele Rimpelli, Giosue Zilocchi, Apisai Tauyavuca, Jimmy Tuivaiti, Guglielmo Palazzani, Francois Brummer, Edoardo Padovani
SOUTHERN KINGS: Michael Botha, Michael Makase, Harlon Klassen, Berton Klaasen, Yaw Penxe, Masixole Banda, Rudi van Rooyen, Justin Forwood, Michael Willemse, Luvuyo Pupuma, Schalk Oelofse, Bobby De Wee, Henry Brown, Martinus Burger, Ruaan Lerm
Replacements: Alandre Van Rooyen, Schalk Ferreira, Luphumlo Mguca, John-Charles Astle, Andisa Ntsila, Godlen Masimla, Martin Du Toit, Ulrich Beyers
Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)
AR1: Keith Allen (SRU) AR2: Manuel Bottino (FIR)
TMO: Stefano Penne (FIR)
TV: SuperSport 1, DAZN and Free Sports
Apisai Tauyavuca’s last-gasp try secured Zebre a bonus-point victory to begin the 2018-19 Guinness PRO14 season as they downed a valiant Isuzu Southern Kings side 32-16 in Parma.
Zebre extended their best-ever sequence in the Guinness PRO14 to four straight wins – following their triumphs over Benetton, Ospreys and Dragons to end last season – as the Kings left their first trip to Parma empty-handed.
Italy fly-half Carlo Canna was impeccable from the tee as he slotted 12 points to complement tries from Oliviero Fabiani, Mattia Bellini, Jimmy Tuivaiti and Tauyavuca, while full-back Michael Botha crossed for the visitors.
The Kings’ wait for a second win since they joined the Guiness PRO14 goes on but Zebre will head to Galway next week to face Connacht full of confidence.
A difficult encounter in Parma tonight. Captain, Michael Willemse, was keen to take the positives from this performance ahead of our visit to Rodney Parade next week.#ZEBvKIN#GUINNESSPRO14 pic.twitter.com/S2Sij0ENg1
— Isuzu Southern Kings (@SouthernKingsSA) August 31, 2018
It was Zebre who scored the very first try of the 2018-19 Guinness PRO14 season as an inexorable fifth-minute driving maul from within the 22 saw Fabiani burrow over the line, before Canna duly slotted the conversion.
The Italian No.10 added a penalty just before the quarter-hour mark but the Kings got themselves right back into the contest shortly after as Masixole Banda popped the ball perfectly for the onrushing Botha to slice through the home defence at pace on debut and dot down.
After Banda’s conversion narrowed the deficit to 10-7, Botha almost gave the South Africans the lead but as he burst towards the line, a big tackle from Bellini dislodged the ball.
Bellini then changed the game at the other end of the pitch. Canna produced an inch-perfect grubber kick to the corner, the Kings’ clearance from the defensive lineout barely got out of their own 22 and the Italian international winger collected the loose ball before charging through the static defence and reaching out to touch down.
Canna bisected the uprights once more with the conversion for a 17-7 half-time advantage, although Banda was equally efficient from the tee twice in the early going of the second half to put the Kings back within four points.
However, Tuivaiti demonstrated his prodigious strength by producing two huge hand-offs of Justin Forwood and Rudi van Rooyen during a powerful run in the Kings 22 before crashing over in the corner and Canna’s conversion extended the advantage to 11 points.
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) August 31, 2018
Banda once again moved the Kings closer from the tee after Tuivaiti was pinged for a high tackle but the fly-half’s opposite number Canna did likewise to cancel that out 12 minutes from time.
With the victory all but assured, Zebre pushed hard for the bonus-point try and after both Andisa Ntsila and de Wee were sin-binned to reduce the Kings to 13 men, they finally succeeded as the clock seeped into the red.
Some good phase play eventually saw Fijian forward Tauyavuca barrel over from close-range to complete a 32-16 triumph.
30 Aug 2018
30 Aug 2018