Maintaining discipline will be a strong focus, but Southern Kings assistant coach Braam van Straaten has left no-one with any illusions about the physicality that the Eastern Cape team will bring to their return PRO14 Rugby derby against the Cheetahs on Saturday.
There was plenty of niggle in the first round clash in Port Elizabeth last weekend, so much so that head coach Robbie Kempson said after his team lost to a last gasp Cheetahs try and conversion that his men will be ready to dish it out in return when the teams meet in Bloemfontein.
However, while he fully expects the niggle to carry over from the first round game, defence coach Van Straaten has stressed that his men will be playing within the laws of the game.
“It has been said by Robbi, and that’s his job, to put down the tone for the week,” said the former Springbok flyhalf.
“But for us it is still work as usual. We need to go out and perform to the best of our abilities without getting pulled into too many incidents. Our job is to focus on the game. It will be very physical but within the rules.”
Van Straaten, like the rest of the Kings management, knows full well that the Kings can ill afford to play the sort of hot headed rugby that will lead to a retention of the trend of being hampered in their quest to win by having players sent off the field.
“Cards have been an Achilles heel for us, we’ve been getting on the wrong side of the referee,” said Van Straaten.
“Discipline has been a big focus for us this year. We believe that sometimes we’ve been unlucky, such as when a player is sent off trying to defend himself when there is no malicious intent. Things do happen in the heat of the moment. But I think that technically we have been getting better with our defence. High tackles are getting less and less, and we need to maintain that improvement.
“It is crucial that against the Cheetahs we don’t give away soft penalties that allow them to get into our half,” he added.
Van Straaten made it clear, though, that while his team is being primed to play within the laws, there will be carry-over from the incidents that so incensed the players and the head coach last week.
“The niggle will carry over, it is a South African derby after all. We believe it was a plan of theirs to unsettle some of our players because of our history of ill- discipline.
“To a certain extent we handled it well. But again, we have to go there with the mindset that we must win the physical battle without doing anything stupid that will make our job of winning the game harder.”
The Kings placed great store on beating their local rivals in the home derby, and the seriousness with which they are taking this series of clashes with the Cheetahs was summed up by something Van Straaten said about his own reaction to a 31-30 defeat that looked highly unlikely when the Kings were leading by 14 points with six minutes to go.
“It was the worst weekend of my life. We worked so hard to win that game and we were controlling the game and winning the battle, and then in the last minutes we lost composure and gave it away. We are determined to go to Bloemfontein and turn that result around this week.”