THE Cheetahs will come “hell for leather” against the Southern Kings when the two sides clash in their Super Rugby showdown in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
That is the prediction of Southern Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons, whose team will be bidding to bounce back after being blanked 34-0 by the Bulls at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
“We are going to have a very tough game in Bloemfontein,” Solomons said.
“It was an incredible achievement by the Cheetahs to beat the Sharks in Durban. What has happened now is that every South African team we play will be chasing a berth in the playoffs. So they are going to come hell for leather against us.
“The Cheetahs are a very good team playing very good rugby. It will be a massive challenge, but we will have settled in after our overseas tour and we have a lot of hard work ahead of us in anticipation for the Cheetahs game.”
The Kings have a few selection issues to consider and one of them will revolve around skipper Luke Watson, who returned to play against the Bulls at the weekend following a long layoff after injuring his throat against the Western Force.
Though he did play a full Vodacom Cup game against the South Western Districts Eagles ahead of the Bulls clash, some feel Watson was rushed back to Super Rugby too quickly.
He played for the first 44 minutes on Saturday before being replaced by Jacques “Vleis” Engelbrecht.
For the Cheetahs showdown, the Kings might consider moving Watson onto the bench and bringing him on later in what promises to be a gruelling 80 minutes of action.
Kings head coach Matt Sexton said the execution by the Bulls against his team had been “pretty phenomenal”.
“We had a lot of defending to do in the first half and when we had an opportunity to go, we lost a bit of composure and tried to push things,” Sexton said.
“Consequently we made mistakes and found ourselves at the other end of the paddock again.
“The execution of the Bulls was pretty phenomenal. We can take some lessons out of that and implement them at some stage.”
Sexton said he had been reasonably pleased with his team’s set pieces and scrumming.
“That, however, is only one part of the game and we need to be good across the board.”
• Sharks and Springbok wing JP Pietersen is set to become one of the five top-paid players in the world when he puts pen to paper for a three-year contract with a Japanese club later this week.
Pietersen, 26, who has been capped 48 times at Test level and has won a Tri-Nations title, a World Cup, a Currie Cup and a British Irish Lions series, will make the move later this year, according to his agent, James Adams.
The name of the club will be revealed only after the final paperwork has been completed.
“JP is looking for a change of environment, but his deal will be unique because he will be able to play for the Springboks in the June Test window and on the end-of-year tour,” Adams said. “I won’t go into the contract specifics, but he will become one of the top five paid players in the world.
“He will also return to play Super Rugby for the Sharks each year as part of the deal. He feels a sense of allegiance to them because they have been good to him and he has been loyal to them.
“We are busy sorting out the terms of a new contract right now. However, because of the timing of the Japanese season, JP won’t be eligible for the Springboks during the Rugby Championship.”
Pietersen has been in negotiations with the Japanese for some time and the talks became more focused after the South African Rugby Union failed to finalise Springbok contracts by the beginning of this month.
Adams said Pietersen had kept Bok coach Heyneke Meyer informed of his plans throughout and Meyer understood where the player stood in terms of his commitment to playing Test rugby.
“JP, as a sign of his commitment to the Boks, will be in constant consultation with the Springbok management and will follow a strict conditioning programme to ensure he doesn’t arrive back from Japan out of shape in any way,” Adams said.
Lock Andries Bekker recently joined the Bok exodus to Japan, but like fellow internationals Fourie du Preez, Ryan Kankowski and Jaque Fourie playing in Japan, his contract forbids him to play Test rugby.
Considering the amounts being paid (Fourie is paid about R10m a season and Pietersen could be earning more than R7m) the Japanese are demanding their pound of flesh. So it is reassuring that Pietersen will be available for the Boks on a limited basis.
The three-year deal has also been structured so that Pietersen is allowed to participate in all the Springboks’ matches in 2015, allowing him time with the squad in the build-up to the World Cup.
With Craig Ray