Southern Kings vs Ospreys Live : Southern Kings lock Andries “Dries” van Schalkwyk will run out first for the Port Elizabeth-based side when they take on Welsh outfit Dragons in a PRO14 clash at Nelson Mandela University’s Madibaz Stadium on Sunday.
Ospreys have made one change for the second leg of their visit to South Africa with prop Ma’afu Fia replacing Tom Botha against Southern Kings.
Allen Clarke’s side need to win to keep maintain their Pro14 and Heineken Champions Cup hopes and put pressure on rivals Cardiff Blues and Connacht.
Ospreys picked up a bonus point in a 31-14 win over Cheetahs last weekend.
“Our performances in the last two games mean we still have everything to play for,” said Ospreys head coach Clarke.
Ospreys go into Friday’s game three points behind Blues and seven adrift of Connacht in the penultimate round of the regular season, with Blues facing Connacht this weekend.
Ospreys’ Conference A campaign will end against Cardiff Blues on Welsh rugby’s Judgment Day at Principality Stadium on Saturday, 27 April – a game that could determine the fate of each side.
Connacht sit in third, an automatic play-off spot, with Blues four points behind them.
The play-offs for the Pro14 title involve the top three teams in each conference automatically entering the 2019-20 Heineken Cup.
The teams finishing fourth in Conference A and Conference B will have one more chance to qualify for Europe’s top flight next season, via a play-off.
Former South African Sevens player Sibusiso Sithole will make a long-awaited return for the Kings by making his first appearance of the season in the centre.
Southern Kings: Beyers; H Klaasen, Sithole, B Klaasen, Basson; B Pretorius, Ungerer; Tshakweni, Willemse, Terblanche, Greeff, Astle (capt), Ntsila, Van Schalkwyk, Lerm.
Replacements: A Van Rooyen, Ferreira, Scholtz, Oelofse, De Wit, R Van Rooyen, Banda, Rokoua.After a lengthy period on the sidelines due to injury, Sithole will make a long-awaited return to the playing field, making his first appearance for the season in the starting line-up.
Sithole will form a midfield partnership with Berton Klaasen, who made his 50th appearance for the Southern Kings last week and is a replacement for the injured Tertius Kruger.
Kruger sustained an ankle injury in Sunday’s 18-18 tie with Dragons.
In other changes in the backline, Ulrich Beyers will make a return to the starting line-up at No15 in the place of Masixole Banda, while Harlon Klaasen will start on the right wing where he replaces Michael Makase, who himself was a late replacement last week following a late hamstring injury to the Southern Kings’ leading try-scorer Yaw Penxe.
In the forwards, exciting young prop Alulutho Tshakweni makes a return to the starting XV in a rotational switch with veteran, Schalk Ferreira, who will be on the bench this week.
Captain JC Astle will have a new starting lock partner in Stephan Greeff, who will get a start in the No4 jersey this week.
Dries van Schalkwyk shifts to blindside flank, where he replaces hard-tackling Tienie Burger, who has been ruled out of action with a shoulder injury.
Fijian Meli Rokoua, will also make a return to the match-23 squad where he will provide backline cover alongside Banda.
Schalk Oelofse has also been included on the bench to provide cover in the second row.
“We have had a few injuries that have forced us to make certain changes to our team,” coach Deon Davids said.Here’s what we do know:
Benetton vs Leinster
Benetton Rugby is for real. The team from Treviso, Italy produced a thrilling performance, going through 29 phase on the final play of the game to score and secure a draw with mighty Leinster.
Although Leinster has already clinched 1st in Conference B, they still showed plenty of resilience in Italy. Having conceded the majority of possession and behind for most of the game, the Irish team still clawed back to get that tied result.
Scarlets vs Edinburgh
FloRugby columnist Juan Pablo Socino will be very happy with his team’s effort this week, as Edinburgh needed badly to win.
The two teams were lying 4th and 5th in Conference B, and so a loss would probably take one of them out of playoff contention. Scarlets were happy to have Leigh Halfpenny back, but it was his mistake that allowed Jaco van der Walt to run the length of the pitch for Edinburgh’s second try to cap the comeback.Connacht did just barely enough, beating Zebre 6-5. A loss would have opened the door wider for the Cardiff Blues to chase down the Irishmen in Conference A.
And how about Zebre’s defense? Not bad for a last-place team.
Toyota Cheetahs vs Ospreys
Dan Evans is still scoring for Ospreys, as the Welsh team won on the road in South Africa. That’s a tough place to play, and they the victory keeps hope alive for Ospreys.
Munster vs Cardiff Blues
Munster was the Guinness PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup, and that grinding forward power is what will get them there.
Having clinched a spot in the playoffs, Munster now wants a bye to the semifinals. Cardiff could have used a bonus point, but, while an exciting attacking team (Aled Summerhill especially), the Blues have paid the price for a leaky defense.Glasgow has not secured a first-round bye, but the Warriors will be in the playoffs, and showed how clinical they can be against a very good Ulster team.
Ulster missed crucial opportunities, and Glasgow’s cover defense was exceptional.
Isuzu Southern Kings vs Dragons
The Dragons have won four games, Southern Kings only two, but the Kings are ahead of the Dragons in the standings. Why? Bonus points.
This is a testament to how the Southern Kings play exciting, open rugby, and how they don’t give up. The South African team has seven (seven!) close-loss bonus points to go with five four-try bonus points.
Those additional 12 points are more than two victories, and bump them ahead of a Dragons team that is yet to get a four-try bonus point in any game.
This game was a wild one and adding to that was some poor discipline on both sides. At one point it was 13-on-13.
So now what? Here’s where every team stands in the playoff hunt: