History will be made once again this weekend when South Africa hosts its first-ever Guinness PRO14 matches as the Southern Kings entertain Leinster in Port Elizabeth before the Toyota Cheetahs host Zebre in Bloemfontein. Both South African teams will be looking to make a promising start as they play their first home games of the campaign after their opening tours of the UK and Ireland in Rounds 1 & 2.
Six teams enter in Round 3 with undefeated records with champions Scarlets joined by Leinster and Munster as on the only sides with maximum points from the first two rounds. Four teams who have won two from two reside in Conference B (Scarlets, Leinster, Ulster and Edinburgh) as the new Championship format begins to take shape. Five of this weekend’s fixtures will be screened live by Sky Sports, SuperSport, BBC Wales, BBC Northern Ireland, Eurosport, S4C and TG4.
What’s at Stake
Leinster look to maintain their hot start to the season after wins against Dragons and Cardiff Blues but they will be up against a Southern Kings team eager to rebound from their losses in the opening rounds. Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will become the 40th venue to host a Championship fixture and a big crowd is expected to witness this first cross-hemisphere clash on South African soil.
Zebre will be the second European team to taste the action in South Africa when they take on the Toyota Cheetahs with both sides looking to pick their first wins of the season. The Scottish teams, Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh, will put their unbeaten records on the line when they face Cardiff Blues and Benetton Rugby, respectively. It’s a debut campaign for coaches at both clubs – Dave Rennie at Glasgow Warriors and Richard Cockerill at Edinburgh – and already they have shown that their playing philosophies can work in the Guinness PRO14.
In Wales, Ospreys will be keen to strike back against Munster after their loss in Glasgow last weekend. These teams last met in the Guinness PRO12 Semi-Final last May and Steve Tandy’s men will be to ensure they claw back some ground on their Conference A rivals. Bernard Jackman’s Dragons will host Connacht, one of his former clubs, as he aims to deliver a first win of the season at Rodney Parade where both teams should be able to take advantage of the fantastic new surface which was laid this summer.
Opta Top Performers – Round 2
- Tackles made: 21 Callum Gibbins (Glasgow Warriors)
- Carries: 25 Olly Cracknell (Ospreys)
- Defenders beaten: 9 Ashton Hewitt (Dragons)
- Offloads: 4 Masixole Banda (Southern Kings)
- Breaks: 4 John Cooney (Ulster)
- Metres made: 140 Jacob Stockdale (Munster)
- Turnovers won: 4 Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh)
- Lineout steals: 2 Quinn Roux (Connacht)
The Southern Kings vs Leinster match takes place at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, 2.15pm. Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU, 36th competition game). Assistant Referees: Mike Adamson (SRU), Cwengile Jadezweni (SARU). Citing Commissioner: Nomsebenzi Tsotsobe (SARU) and TMO: Johan Greeff (SARU)
The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth will become the 40th different venue to host a Guinness PRO14 encounter, and the first in South Arica.
The? Southern Kings have lost their last three matches since beating the Bulls 31-30 in Pretoria in Super Rugby in July.
The? Kings most recent victory in Port Elizabeth was 35-32 against The Sharks on 13 May.
Leinster have begun their Guinness PRO14 campaign with maximum points but have not started a
Championship season with wins in their first three matches since 2001/02.
The Leinsterman’s only defeat in their last six away games in the Championship was 13-17 to Ulster in Belfast in round 22 last season.
The two sides have never met before.
Leinster Rugby Head Coach Leo Cullen and club captain Isa Nacewa left their Leinster Rugby base in UCD on Tuesday afternoon together with the rest of the Leinster touring party for the first stage of their trip to South Africa.
In total Cullen has named 28 players and they leave Dublin this evening arriving in to Johannesburg tomorrow morning.
Those ruled out through injury include Dan Leavy (ankle), Rob Kearney (hamstring), Peadar Timmins (quad), Jamie Heaslip (lower back), Richardt Strauss (knee), Tom Daly (knee) and Garry Ringrose (shoulder) while Cullen also confirmed that lock Ian Nagle has had a procedure on a pectoral muscle injury picked up in training and will be out of action for up to 12 weeks.
Finally Cullen also confirmed that Devin Toner and Scott Fardy were not considered for selection as their wives are expecting their first child in the next few weeks.
Leinster Rugby Squad to Tour South Africa – Leinster Caps in Brackets:
1. Michael Bent (89)
2. Adam Byrne (26)
3. Ed Byrne (9)
4. Ross Byrne (25)
5. Joey Carbery (23)
6. Jack Conan (53)
7. Seán Cronin (130)
8. Barry Daly (12)
9. Max Deegan (4)
10. Peter Dooley (38)
11. Dave Kearney (111)
12. Jamison Gibson-Park (30)
13. Cian Healy (174)
14. Mick Kearney (22)
15. Jordan Larmour (2)
16. Cathal Marsh (20)
17. Ross Molony (45)
18. Jordi Murphy (86)
19. Rory O’Loughlin (23)
20. Fergus McFadden (152)
21. Luke McGrath (76)
22. Isa Nacewa (172)
23. Andrew Porter (10)
24. Noel Reid (82)
25. Rhys Ruddock (132)
26. James Ryan (1)
27. James Tracy (44)
28. Josh van der Flier (48)