Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh are in great form and full on confidence following their 29-19 1872 Cup win over Glasgow Warriors.
They have only been beaten once in their last eight matches in all competitions and they’re unbeaten at BT Murrayfield this season.
Enter Isuzu Southern Kings. The Kings have just one win to their name this campaign, in Round 6 at Ospreys, but recent history is on their side as they did win the most recent meeting of these sides in January, and in some style too.
Stand-off Jaco van der Walt returns to the Edinburgh starting XV to make his 50th appearance for the capital club as Cockerill makes 11 changes.
A rotated backline sees Van der Walt partnered with Henry Pyrgos at half-back, with an all-new centre pairing of Matt Scott and James Johnstone selected in midfield. Fijian international Eroni Sau returns on the wing.
For the Kings the experienced Schalk Ferreira will taste his first bit of Guinness PRO14 action for the 2019/20 season when he earns a starting berth at prop, the 35-year-old returning from a back injury that has sidelined him since pre-season.
Kick-off: 19:45, BT Murrayfield
How to watch: Live on Premier Sports 1, SuperSport 1, eir Sport 2, DAZN & www.pro14.tv
Players to watch out for: Matt Scott vs Howard Mnisi
Scotland star Scott – who enjoyed an impressive 24-minute appearance from the bench in last weekend’s 1872 Cup derby win – links-up with Johnstone in midfield, in what will be a key area of the battle on Saturday.
Scott helped take the game away from Glasgow in that scintillating derby last week, only prevented from what would have been a scorching try by an excellent bit of Ruaridh Jackson defence, can the Kings also keep him out?
Up against Scott in the 12 shirt is Kings skipper Howard Mnisi, a reliable and consistent performer who is at the heartbeat of everything the Kings do.
Key stat: The two sides have met on four previous occasions with Edinburgh winning the first three and Kings taking the most recent clash last January in South Africa.
Edinburgh Rugby: Blair Kinghorn; Eroni Sau, James Johnstone, Matt Scott, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos (Capt); Jamie Bhatti, Mike Willemse, WP Nel; Lewis Carmichael, Grant Gilchrist; Magnus Bradbury, John Barclay, Nick Haining.
Replacements: Dave Cherry, Pierre Schoeman, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Luke Crosbie, Charlie Shiel, Simon Hickey, Mark Bennett.
Isuzu Southern Kings: Courtney Winnaar, Yaw Penxe, Sibusiso Sithole, Howard Mnisi (Capt), Erich Cronje; John-Thomas Jackson, Stefan Ungerer; Schalk Ferreira, Jacques du Toit, Pieter Scholtz, Jerry Sexton, Aston Fortuin, Ruaan Lerm, Thembelani Bholi, Elrigh Louw.
Replacements: Alandre van Rooyen, Xandre Vos, De-Jay Terblanche, John-Charles Astle, Bobby de Wee, Theo Maree, Bader Pretorius, Andell Loubser
Edinburgh built on last weekend’s 1872 Cup success with a nine-try win over 13-man Isuzu Southern Kings, who fought courageously on their first Guinness PRO14 appearance since November.
Pieter Scholtz’s early red card undermined Kings’ positive start, and despite tries from Erich Cronje and JT Jackson, home scores from Mike Willemse, Duhan van der Merwe, Matt Scott, James Johnstone, Eroni Sau, Dave Cherry, Charlie Shiel, Mark Bennett and a penalty try sealed victory for the hosts.
The Scotsmen have now been beaten just once in nine in all competitions and leapfrog Scarlets at the top of Conference B, while defeat leaves the South Africans with just one win to their name in 2019/20.
It was a hotly contested start to proceedings at BT Murrayfield, and both Nick Haining and Jackson were subjected to big hits in the opening minutes as both sides looked to gain the ascendency.
Kings looked full of energy from the off and they were the first to get on the scoreboard when Cronje latched on to Jackson’s sumptuous cross-field kick to dot down inside 10 minutes.
But the visitors’ joy was short-lived, when Scholtz was shown a red card just three minutes later for striking John Barclay in the throat.
And the hosts immediately made the most of their one-man advantage, Willemse bulldozing over in his first match against his old side, with Jaco van der Walt converting to give Edinburgh the lead after quarter-of-an-hour.
Despite the momentum now seemingly in Edinburgh’s favour, the away side fought back valiantly, and Jackson restored their advantage with his boot after Lewis Carmichael was penalised under the posts.
With the half-hour mark looming however, South African star van der Merwe made his first real contribution to the game for Edinburgh, producing an individual piece of brilliance to evade the Southern Kings defence and go over in the corner for his fifth Guinness PRO14 score this season.
Just three minutes later, a glorious offload from Sau set up Scott who finished off smartly in the corner to give Richard Cockerill’s men some breathing space, but there was still time for Jackson to go over before the break to leave everything to play for in the second half.
But within five minutes of the restart Edinburgh had secured the bonus point, Johnstone being left with an easy finish after Blair Kinghorn had drawn Jackson into a challenge on the right flank, with van der Walt converting to hand the hosts a 13-point lead with 33 minutes to go.
With only 27 minutes left on the clock, the Kings’ task got even harder when they were reduced to 13 men as a result of De-Jay Terblanche going off injured, and despite battling bravely, Edinburgh eventually broke through for their fifth score with a penalty try in the 67th minute.
A yellow card for Aston Fortuin reduced Robbi Kempson’s men to 12 temporarily, and Sau capitalised with a great finish with ten minutes left, before Cherry, Siel and Bennett added gloss to the scoreline.
There were plenty of worthy candidates within the Edinburgh squad, with Lewis Carmichael, Grant Gilchrist and Mike Willemse all impressing, while Pierre Schoeman and Luke Crosbie were very effective off the bench.
But Johnstone stood up to be counted from the off, getting through a bucketload of work in the midfield and capping off a top performance with a deserved try.
Even with one less man on the pitch for the majority of the first half, Southern Kings continued to test Edinburgh, and the Scotsmen were crying out for a moment of magic to turn the game in their favour.
Enter Duhan van der Merwe. The ball was spread out to the 24-year-old following a scrum, and with plenty still to do, the winger beat all in front of him to breathe some life into Edinburgh’s until-then lacklustre display.