Sunday’s Rapport called the knockout matches the battle for life or death of one of the franchises and says that there will be no second chances next year, whichever team loses effectively signs the death warrant for its franchise.
A bit dramatic maybe but nevertheless true as the team that loses will lose too many players to stage a comeback.
The Kings not only will lose many of the journeymen they managed to sign up with the promise of Super Rugby, they will find it impossible to sign new players until such time as SANZAR approves a sixth South African franchise in Super Rugby.
The Lions lost 15 players after they got kicked out but managed to keep some and also to sign players on the fringes on short term contracts but they lose most of these players if they lose the knockouts.
There is so much at stake for both sides and both franchises are trying to hype up their supporters to fill their stadiums for the home matches:
Let’s look then at the players and match ups on which the fortunes of these two franchises rest over the next two weeks.
Kings: George Whitehead, SP Marais
Two very capable attacking fullbacks with Whitehead able to slot in at flyhalf as well.
Lions: Chrysander Botha, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Cronje
With injuries to Jaco Taute and Andries Coetzee the Lions have three backups that can still be an attacking force from the back and Lionel Cronje has proved to be an excellent impact player in various backline positions.
Kings: Sergeal Petersen (?), Marcello Sampson, Michael Killian
If Sergeal Petersen is still out injured the Kings will be thin on quality wings but both Sampson and Killian can be a danger when given space.
Lions: Anthony Volminck, Deon van Rensburg, Ruan Combrinck, Chrysander Botha
Volminck has become a tryscoring machine while old man Deon van Rensburg may be a tad slow on wing but his defence is solid while back ups Combrinck and Botha can inject speed.
Kings: Waylon Murray, Ronnie Cooke, Hadley Parkes
The injury to Andries Strauss has definitely created a problem for the Kings in midfield.
Lions: Alwyn Hollenbach (?), Stokkies Hanekom, Dylan Des Fountain, Lionel Cronje
Lionle Mapoe is out injured and time will tell whether Hollenbach is fit to play but Stokkies has had a great year at #13 so far.
Kings: Demetri Catrakilis, George Whitehead
The Greek has had a great Super Rugby season, both with the boot and in his game management but he just doesn’t have enough quality outside him to turn his backline into a real attacking force.
Lions: Marnitz Boshoff, Elton Jantjies, Lionel Cronje
Boshoff has had a good season with the Lions, a solid performer with the boot and in getting his backline away while Jantjies has had a less than stellar season with the Stormers but should be more comfortable with the Lions game plan but will probably slot in on the bench for the first game.
Kings: Shaun Venter, Nicolas Vergallo
Both scrummies had good seasons in Super Rugby and will hope for good ball from their forwards.
Lions: Michael Bondesio, Ross Cronje, Guy Cronje
There is a wide gap between the quality of play from Bondesio and that from the Cronje twins while Bondesio, in the absence of Jantjies, has developed into a playmaker for the Lions.
Kings: Cornell du Preez, Wimpie van der Walt, Jacques Engelbrecht, Devin Oosthuizen
Apart from Catrakilis the Kings loosies were probably their best players during Super Rugby and have been able to compete at the break downs as well as give the Kings some go forward ball and will be the biggest threat to the Lions’ attempt to dominate up front.
Lions: Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel (?), Warren Whiteley (?), Warwick Tecklenberg, Willie Britz, Lambert Groenewaldt
Whiteley and Kriel’s participation is still uncertain but the Lions other loosies are quite capable to compete with the Kings loosies with the only concern being that Minnie might give Catrakilis too many opportunities to score with the boot.
Kings: Steven Sykes, David, Bulbring, Darron Nell
Solid performers during the Super Rugby campaign in the lineouts, in ball carries and in the driving mauls and probably the strongest part of the Kings game.
Lions: Franco van der Merwe, Hendrik Roodt, Hugo Kloppers, JJ Breet, Gavin Annadale
The Lions struggled in the lineouts through most of their preparation games but Franco’s return should stabilise that. Hendrik Roodt has upped his game and is playing to the potential expected of him.
Kings: Bandise Maku, Hannes Franklin
Two solid performers in all facets of hooker play.
Lions: Martin Bezuidenhout, Robbie Coetzee, Swys du Toit
Callie Visagie is still on loan to the Bulls for the Super Rugby playoffs and it will be up to Bezuidenhout to help sort out the lineout accuracy.
Kings: Schalk Ferreira, Kevin Buys (?), Grant Kemp, Charl du Plessis
Even if Buys can’t play the Kings will still field a strong front row and a scrum that weren’t often outscrummed during Super Rugby.
Lions: JC Janse van Rensburg, Ruan Dreyer, CJ van der Linde (?), Julian Redelinghuys, Jacques van Rooyen
With the best scrummaging loosehead in the country anchoring their scrums the Lions have developed one of the best scrummaging packs in South Africa in recent years and this year is no different. The scrums will be the Lions foundation to attain forward dominance.
Kings: Lineouts, drive mauls, break downs, goal kicking, tactical kicking
The Kings will attempt to force the Lions to attack from deep through tactical kicks and will depend on turnovers to launch counter attacks. Once they are in the Lions 22 they will try and force lineouts to get their driving maul going.
Lions: Scrums, quick ball rotation, driving mauls, backline attacks
The Lions will use their scrums to establish up front dominance and use quick ball rotation to speed up the game to put the Kings defence under pressure. Near the Kings tryline they will use their driving mauls to try and score.
Also published on Lions Pride