KINGS flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis will come under a brighter spotlight than usual when his side tackles the Cheetahs at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Catrakilis was this week added to the Bok training squad — the only Kings player in the 38- man group — a reward for his understated, but effective play in a position where only he and the Bulls’ Morné Steyn have shown consistency in 2013. So in addition to trying to guide his side to a much-needed victory over the high-riding Cheetahs, Catrakilis will know that another strong showing won’t harm his Test claims in the short-term.
Catrakilis has featured in all 11 matches of the Kings campaign and has already amassed an impressive 107 points. He’s landed an excellent 39 out of 47 shots at goal for a success ratio of nearly 83%.
With the ball in hand Catrakilis has also been solid, making 11 tackle busts and a couple of line breaks, while his line kicking has generally been accurate. And he’s achieved all this in a team that has been on the back foot more often than not.
The Cheetahs have already had a glimpse of Catrakilis’ ability when he scored all his team’s points during a 26-12 loss in Bloemfontein a month ago, and they understand the need for tight discipline with such an accurate kicker in the opposing lineup.
The Cheetahs cannot afford to lose any ground to the Bulls in the race for first place in the South African Super 15 Conference and understand that that a maximum five- point haul is crucial against the lowly Kings.
But the team from the Bay have surprised friend and foe this season with their gutsy, committed and organised displays. They simply cannot be taken for granted.
Durban sees the most crucial fixture of the weekend where the Bulls travel to meet the Sharks — the first of two clashes between the sides in the space of three weeks if you discount the test match window.
The Bulls are six points clear at the top of the SA Conference and could put one hand on the trophy with a ninth win in their 12th match of the campaign. For the Sharks, the play-offs remain a mathematical possibility but an unlikely probability with only four matches of their season remaining.
One thing is certain, a seventh loss will finish off any slim hope they have of reaching the top six.
Hopes that hooker Bismarck du Plessis and centre Butch James would return this week failed to come to fruition and both need at least another week while the Sharks have also lost wing JP Pietersen for the rest of the season.
The Stormers, whose campaign is one breath away from flat-lining, have put together a scratch team to face the Reds at Newlands in tomorrow’s 5pm kick-off.
A season that promised so much, has collapsed on the back of the Stormers’ inability to capitalise on chances they’ve created although there have also been mitigating circumstances. A massive number of injuries, a brutally tough fixture list and some exceptionally bad officiating further undermined their own shortcomings.
All that the Stormers can aim for is to win their remaining five matches and hope other results work in their favour — and even that is highly unlikely.