Port Elizabeth – Eastern Province Kings coach Carlos Spencer is not making the mistake of thinking it will get any easier when his team begin their cross-pool matches in the Currie Cup Premier Division on Saturday.
First up for the home side at Nelson Mandela Stadium are the Free State Cheetahs, who are fifth on the log and will be eager to make further progress against the bottom side in the competition.
The Kings have had a tough re-introduction to top flight domestic rugby and after six games in their pool – against Western Province, the Lions and the Blue Bulls – they have picked up just one bonus point.
Now they will be looking to their cross-pool games against the Cheetahs, Sharks, Pumas and Griquas to try to take some positives out of the season.
Province and the Lions head the overall log, but the Pumas, Sharks and Cheetahs are all in the mix for the semifinals and the pressure will remain squarely on Spencer and the Kings.
“I don’t believe the games will get any easier. They are harder because of the mentality that we take into these games. We just have to be careful we don’t take these teams lightly,” Spencer said this week.
“It is not Western Province, Bulls or Lions, so I am wary that we go in not preparing properly as individuals because we might tend to take them easy. These next four games are actually harder then the previous games we have had.
“You know what you are going to get against the Lions, Bulls and Province and you prepare properly for them because you know you have to.”
The Cheetahs will be desperate to return home with full points after being forced to snatch a draw with a last-gasp penalty in their home game against the Sharks last weekend.
Coach Rory Duncan has included fullback Clayton Blommetjies and wing Raymond Rhule in the starting line-up and is happy with the continuity they have managed to maintain in their selection.
“We are happy to have Clayton and Raymond back as they will add to our attack with regards to our backline,” Duncan said.
“We are lucky enough, though, that the rest of the starting line-up remains as it was for our game against the Sharks.”
Duncan, a former Kings player, understands the task they face in Port Elizabeth and despite the home team’s winless run, he ruled out any sense of complacency in their camp.
With both sides likely to run the ball, it should be a cracking affair.
The odds must certainly favour the visitors, but the Kings remain fired up to secure that first victory, which would be a massive boost for the rest of their season.
15 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 14 Siyanda Grey, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Ntabeni Dukisa, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Devin Oosthuizen, 6 Shaun McDonald, 5 Darron Nell, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Substitutes: 16 Albe de Swardt, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Steven Cummins, 19 Stefan Willemse, 20 Tobie Botes, 21 Dwayne Jenner, 22 Scott van Breda
Free State Cheetahs:
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 JP du Plessis, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Willie du Plessis, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Lappies Labuschagne, 7 Neil Claassen, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Henco Venter, 3 George Marich, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (captain), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen
Substitutes: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Dolph Botha, 18 Brendon Groenewald, 19 Vincent Jobo, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 22 AJ Coertzen