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
Leinster Rugby powered to a 38– 31 victory at Isuzu Southern Kings in the GUINNESS PRO14.
Poor discipline from the South African side saw three players sent to the sin bin in the first half, as Leinster ran up five tries to earn a 33-12 lead at the break.
The Irish side secured the victory with two tries in the second period at the NMU Stadium but the Kings rallied late on with two tries of their own in the last ten minutes.
Strong carrying in the tight set up the South African side’s pack, who provided the platform for fly-half Martin du Toit to grubber kick through after two minutes.
The bobbling kick evaded Leinster winger Adam Byrne, who failed to gather. It dribbled over the try line and Southern Kings’ winger Yaw Penxe raced through and dived onto the ball to touch down to make it 5-0.
— Isuzu Southern Kings (@SouthernKingsSA) November 4, 2018
Byrne would redeem himself later in the first half with a try of his own after 15 minutes. It was a reverse of fortunes after Du Toit failed to gather a grubber kick through by Noel Reid.
After the ball escaped du Toit’s grasp it was gathered Rory O’Loughlin before he offloaded to Byrne, who powered over from ten metres out to tie the score.
15: TRY @leinsterrugby!
Adam Byrne crosses to bring Leinster level 🏉🏉🏉
— eir Sport (@eirSport) November 4, 2018
Leinster’s forwards pummelled the try line 23 minutes in and looked set to score after several phases. Hooker James Tracy seemed to have crossed the whitewash but the ball popped out of hands before he grounded the ball.
A resulting scrum due to a no-arms tackle by a Kings defender resulted in a penalty try when the home team’s pack was deemed to not have been driving straight, leaving Leinster up 12-5.
It got worse for the South African side as second-rower Stephan Greeff was deemed offside at a maul and given a yellow card.
The South African pack were put under more pressure at the resulting set-piece with loosehead Schalk Ferreira joining his teammate in the sinbin for collapsing the scrum.
Later in the half a Kings six-man scrum, with only a number eight in the back row, managed to hold their own and avoid conceding the penalty.
Leinster scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park looked to break but his pass was intercepted by opposite number Stefan Ungerer. He raced through unopposed to put his side level against the run of play.
But Gibson-Park got his own score a few minutes later. Strong winger Joseph Tomane managed to hold his defender before flinging the ball infield with Gibson-Park the lucky recipient. He managed to scoop up the ball and dot down. Reid skilfully slotted a conversion from the left flank.
Dan Leavey added to Leinster’s lead with a try after Ed Byrne charged down a clearing kick.
Another member of the Kings’ pack was sent to the bin just before half time. Flanker Tienie Burger grabbed Leinster captain Scott Fardy as he was looking to chase a kick through, taking him.
The resulting penalty saw a sharp move off the back of the scrum with Max Deegan touching down under the posts, leaving Leinster 33-12 ahead at half time.
Ungerer showed his ability to be in the right place at the right time, as he registered another interception try after the break.
Poor handling by Deegan saw the ball run loose to the Kings’ scrum-half, who doubled his try count after 42 minutes.
Leinster laid siege to the Southern King’s try line as the half progressed. Wave after wave of attack was rewarded on 63 minutes as replacement hooker Bryan Byrne touched down.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) November 4, 2018
The Kings pushed for a fourth score to try and get a bonus point with hard midfield running.
They were rewarded after 71 minutes when replacement Luphumlo Mguca dived over the line to make sure the home side took something from the game.
Just before the end replacement Kings’ back Berton Klaasen was sent to the bin, as his side matched their yellow cards with their tries scored.
Dries van Schalkwyk added another late try for the home side.