Pro14 Preview: Munster v Southern Kings
The men in red play host to the South African side this weekend.
To say this season has been a bit of a mixed bag for Munster would be an understatement. A brand-new coaching setup was always going to take time to gel, but a World Cup, rest periods and injuries to key players and a Six Nations is certainly enough to put a spanner in the works.
At 7.35pm on Friday, 14 February (live on eir Sport 1), Munster will have a chance to put things right. Southern Kings only have one win to a ravaged Ospreys side so far this season, so you can bet that Munster will be chasing all five points from this one.
The only point of concern for Munster is what kind of team they will be able to put out. A rare home defeat (granted, it was in Musgrave Park) came while they were missing most of their international stars back in November, and they will be hoping to avoid something similar this time around.
Injuries and international call-ups have put a massive dent in the squad, but Munster have still been able to put out a strong side. Jack O'Donoghue and Chris Farrell coming back from Irish camp will make no small amount of difference, especially with them being in such good form at the moment.
Here are the two respective squads:
15. Mike Haley
14. Calvin Nash
13. Chris Farrell
12. Dan Goggin
11. Shane Daly
10. JJ Hanrahan
9. Neil Cronin
1. James Cronin
2. Niall Scannell
3. John Ryan
4. Fineen Wycherley
5. Billy Holland (C)
6. Jack O’Donoghue
7. John Hodnett
8. Arno Botha
Bench: Kevin O’Byrne, Jeremy Loughman, Keynan Knox, Gavin Coombes, Chris Cloete, Nick McCarthy, Ben Healy, Rory Scannell.
Isuzu Southern Kings
15. Andell Loubser
14. Chris Hollis
13. S'bura Sithole
12. Erich Cronje
11. Eddie Ludick
10. Demetri Catrakilis
9. Stefan Ungerer
1. Schalk Ferreira
2. Jacques du Toit
3. Rossouw de Klerk
4. Jerry Sexton
5. JC Astle (C)
6. Lusanda Badiyana
7. Bobby de Wee
8. Ruaan Lerm
Bench: Alandre van Rooyen, Xandre Vos, Ignatius Prinsloo, Aston Fortuin, Thembelani Bholi, Luyolo Dapula, Josh Allderman, Courtney Winnaar.
Where we stand
Looking at the two squads, Munster have a clear advantage in terms of experience. With only two internationally capped players in their XV, Southern Kings will be relying on veteran prop Schalk Ferreira to keep them in the fight at scrum time.
It'll also be interesting to see how Johnny Sexton's brother Jerry performs on his return to Irish soil. The experienced second row is certainly up against it with Wycherley and Holland, but their high success rate in the lineout (91%) so far this season means it's one area they can look to control.
Worth noting as well that only three players in the league have made more turnovers than replacement back row Thembelani Bholi, with seven so far in the first 10 rounds.
The last time these two sides met was back in October, when Munster made the trip to Port Elizabeth. Munster ran out 20-31 winners in the end, but it's worth noting that it was a one-score game right up until the last 15 minutes when Munster ran in two tries.
Kings' last outing to Limerick didn't end well for them, with a 43-0 scoreline telling you all you need to know about that one.
The Kings do have the ability to frustrate teams and have shown moments of quality, but in reality they have been few and far between. Munster will expect a win here and a bonus point would be absolutely crucial in what is a very tight conference.
Verdict: Munster to win by 15+ points.