SOUTHERN Kings caretaker head coach Robbie Kempson has heaped praise on flyhalf George Whitehead ahead of his team’s Super Rugby friendly against the Lions at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 5pm).
Kempson was speaking after his team went down 36-21 to the Cheetahs in an entertaining opening match of the season on Saturday.
“What a pleasure to have George back to where he was,” Kempson said after the pivot played a key role as the Kings showed off their new-found attacking qualities against a powerful Cheetahs combination.
“George was free-flowing and I think he was the best flyhalf on show on Saturday from both sides and that was really good to see.”
Considering that the highly rated Johan Goosen and Elgar Watts lined up against Whitehead, Kempson was clearly impressed by the showing of his flyhalf, who grew with confidence as the game progressed.
Whitehead, who was forced to play second fiddle to Demetri Catrakilis when the Kings played Super Rugby last season, was cool and calculating against a formidable Cheetahs line-up.
The Kings, who ran in three tries against the Cheetahs, look set to play a more attacking brand of rugby this season and the role of Whitehead, and scrumhalf Jaco Grobler will be crucial in its implementation.
Kings coaches Kempson, Carlos Spencer (backline) and Tiger Mangweni (defence) put their team through their paces on Monday, while centre Ronnie Cooke, who took a bump on his hip against the Cheetahs, sat out the session to receive treatment at the side of the field.
Lock Steven Sykes took a knock on his knee during training, but is expected to be fit for Saturday’s showdown. Hooker Albe de Swardt is suffering from a rib injury.
The Kings, who are expected to name their side to face the Lions on Tuesday, might be contemplating some changes to the starting line-up.
Among the forwards, Lizo Gqoboka and Charl du Plessis are likely to return for what promises to be a fiery showdown against the Lions outfit who beat the Kings in last year’s Super Rugby promotion-relegation showdown.
Meanwhile, the Lions won both their warm-up matches against the Leopards and a mixed NWU-Pukke-Leopards outfit at Barnard Stadium in Kempton Park at the weekend.
In the main match, the Lions ran in eight tries to secure a runaway 52-14 win over the mixed NWU-Pukke-Leopards side. Pumas loan centre Stefan Watermeyer put in a brilliant performance, scoring a hat-trick on his Lions debut.
In another match, the Lions edged the Leopards 31-24 in a Vodacom Cup warm-up game.