Isuzu Southern Kings coach Robbi Kempson believes this weekend’s PRO14 derby match against the Toyota Cheetahs in Port Elizabeth is the ideal opportunity for his side to draw a line in the sand and show how much they have improved over the past six months.
The Kings will start as underdogs at home against Hawies Fourie’s side this weekend, but will draw confidence out of their weekend victory over a second-string DHL Stormers side in Knysna, as well as a good performance against the odds in their last PRO14 outing against Edinburgh.
But for them to take the next step forward, they need to inspire confidence in their abilities and having played second-fiddle to the Cheetahs over the past few seasons they now see this as an opportunity to put up a fighting performance and get some much-needed log points in the process.
Kempson believes it is extremely important for his side to put up a fighting performance this weekend at home, especially in the context of the competition.
“It is very important. The other teams have shown us a bit more respect in playing full-strength sides against us. Edinburgh played a full-strength side as did Connacht. They are showing us a lot more respect in the manner in which they are putting out full-strength teams against us,” Kempson said.
“It shows just how this team has grown. It doesn’t help in the results, but this would be a good opportunity to show how far we have come. We still have a long way to go, but we want to put a marker in the sand this weekend.
“The manner in which we want to play the game, and hopefully we will put that together on the weekend. We have concentrated heavily on ourselves and it is an opportunity for us to show how far we have come, in dry conditions – which we really haven’t had this season except for the first three we played.”
Kempson said the Cheetahs’ poor performance in their last game against Zebre had been noted, but possibly was more down to a planning error than a genuine loss of form. He, therefore, was not about to predict “an easy game” for his charges.
“We found this our ourselves, you can’t give guys a month’s holiday and then go and expect to play a high-performance team who are in a top European competition. We made that error last year and I think they made the error this year. In view of the fact they played in the Currie Cup it was probably right for the players but wrong for the competition.
“I think the Cheetahs have always had the advantage over us and I think they will expect to have the same when they come here this weekend. We are definitely not expecting an easy game and they will definitely be a different team to the one who faced Zebre.”
The mouth-watering derby fixture will settle, over this weekend and the return fixture in Bloemfontein next weekend, who is the best South African PRO14 franchise.
Kempson will name his side for the clash on Friday.