Head to Head
This weekend’s fixture will be the first time these two teams have faced each other. The Kings were formed by the South African Rugby Union in January 2009 in an effort to bring rugby to the Eastern Cape. Their first opponents were the British and Irish Lions during their tour of 2009. They enjoyed their first season of Super Rugby in 2013, playing 16 games and achieving three victories – one of which was against the Highlanders. Financial problems saw the team focus on domestic competitions before a second attempt at Super Rugby also drew limited success. This season, they’ve managed only one victory, ratcheting up 45 points against the hapless Dragons.
The Kings are coached by Deon Davids – who once worked under Rudy Joubert at the Boland Cavaliers. He’s been with the Kings since the start of the 2016 Super Rugby season. It’s been a tough job for Davids, with his team having won only nine of the forty nine games he’s overseen and the experience in this season’s Pro14 has been particularly hard. Wilson’s role at Cardiff is coming to an end and he’ll be keen to end on a high. A victory in this fixture will ensure European Champions Rugby for the first time for the club since 2013-14.
Irishman Sean Gallagher refs his fifth game of the Pro14 season this weeks. At the age of only 28, he’s one of the youngest referees in the league. He’s ref’d the Kings twice this season without success for the men from the Eastern Cape. The omens are good for the visitors, however. Gallagher ranks at the bottom of the league when it comes to homers – only 44% of the games he’s reff’d have seen the home team victorious.
In attack, the Kings are a mid-table team, averaging a score every 1.88 minutes when in possession of the ball. However, no team has beaten fewer defenders this season (by some margin) and they have carried the ball less than any other team in the league – even less than the Ospreys. But when one compares the relative potency of the two teams in attack, the Kings have scored more points at home this season than the visitors have managed away from home.
Cardiff’s lineout creaked under the strain last week, but they still stand top of the league for fewest lineouts lost on their own throw this season. Against the Cheetahs, they managed only a 75% success rate on their own throw – their second worst performance of the season. As third choice hooker, Kirby Myhill will be under pressure this week, hopefully steering clear of Oompa-Loompa standard. On a more positive note, fortunately, they won’t have to contend with Mike Adamson’s curious interpretations of the scrum laws.
Defence – or the lack of it – has been something of a nightmare for the Southern Kings this season. They have conceded 150 points more than the truly dreadful Dragons. But it would be amiss to excuse the visitors from analysis of their own defensive record. So far this season, they have conceded 55 tries in the Pro14. In the last two season, they’ve managed to return a net positive on tries scored vs tries conceded, but this season they are at minus eight. This season has seen two of the worst squads ever to play in the Pro14 – the Dragons and the Kings. Both teams have conceded – on average – a staggering 42 points points per game away from home. They have surpassed even Zebre and Benetton’s rank mediocrity of last season.
Cardiff are now averaging a yellow card per game in their away fixtures – something that will no doubt be a focus for the incoming coach next season. They are being carded at a rate of 16 penalties per card, whereas the Scarlets are only carded once every 70 penalties. And if Cardiff have something of a problem with discipline away from home, only Benetton have conceded more penalties at home than the Kings.
With only an 11% home win ratio, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium is the easiest place in the league to secure a victory for visiting teams. This is a must-win game for the visitors and they will not disappoint. Cardiff are only four from ten this season in turning three tries into four (or more) and they’ll be desperate to make up for last week’s disappointment by ensuring the come away with a maximum points haul. Expect the visitors to run out victorious by 15-29.