Player 'trade-off' at heart of SA derbies
PRO14 SPOTLIGHT: While the focus shifts to the Champions Cup in Europe for the next fortnight, the two South African franchises head into a crucial period that includes two domestic derbies.
The Southern Kings and Cheetahs have a bye this week – when Round Five of Europe’s premier club competition takes place – before they go head-to-head at Nelson Mandela University’s Madibaz Stadium in the first of three derby matches this season.
The SA teams then face Zebre (against Cheetahs) and Edinburgh (against Kings) when the Pro14 return at the end of the month – before they meet against in Bloemfontein on February 2, when the Pro14 takes another break during the opening round of the Six Nations.
The third derby match is only at the end of April.
The feature of the next three weeks is the number of players who have crossed over between the two SA franchises since last season.
The Kings squad will feature several former Cheetahs in Tertius Kruger, Sarel Pretorius and Tienie Burger.
The added spice is the presence of former Kings players – Malcolm Jaer, Sintu Manjezi and Junior Pokomela – in the Cheetahs squad.
The Kings have won just once this season – with heavy losses to Edinburgh (0-38) and Connacht (14-31) in their last two outings.
The Cheetahs, with three wins and a draw in their 11 outings, has been slightly more successful. They beat Zebre (27-12) last week, ran Connacht close (17-21) in December and beat Benetton (31-25) before that.
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Kings coach Deon Davids has been ‘critical’ of his team, after their horror show last week.
“We have a few things that we need to work hard on ahead of the important derby against the Cheetahs,” Davids said.
“They [Cheetahs] have had a good start [to the year], with a win this past weekend.
“They are a good side which we have to be well-prepared for when we face them next week.
“We are expecting a tough match against – a traditional South African derby,” he said of the encounter in Port Elizabeth.
The Cheetahs will have a contact session against the University of the Free State (Shimlas) on Saturday.
The Cheetahs can get themselves back into the play-off race if they can collect 15 points in their next three games.
The Cheetahs and former Shimlas coach, Franco Smith, told OFM Sport that it’s important for them to find their rhythm.
“There are an interesting three weeks lying ahead for us,” Smith told the Bloemfontein-based radio station.
“We are just going to claw our way back into finding our rhythm. We want to regain our form and get better at what we do.”