South African PRO14 Teams Struggle on Debut

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Belfast , United Kingdom - 1 September 2017; Andrew Trimble of Ulster is tackled by Makazole Mapimpi of Cheetahs during the Guinness PRO14 Round 1 match between Ulster and Cheetahs at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. (Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The two South African PRO14 teams struggled in their respective debut matches with both recording disappointing losses.

Both games went according to script though and it the same two problems that beset each team in Super Rugby. The Cheetahs defense was abysmal and the Kings are once again rebuilding a team from scratch.

Ulster 42 – Tries: Tommy Bowe, Alan O’Conner, Stuart McCloskey, Charles Piutau, Louis Ludik and Peter Nelson; Conversions: John Cooney 3; Penalties: John Cooney 3

Toyota Cheetahs 19 – Tries: Clayton Blommetjies, Makazole Mapimpi and Sergeal Petersen; Conversions: William Small-Smith 2

Key Thoughts

It was a case of keeping up with tradition for the Cheetahs. Their attacking intent was always on display, but they proved to be their own worst enemies. Promising attacks were mostly based on individual brilliance, leading to the ball carrier being isolated and too often conceding penalties for holding on. South African expats Marcel Coetzee and Jean Deysel had a field day at the breakdown.

Defense has been a regular Achilles heel for the Cheetahs and Friday’s game was no different. Their lack of progress in this aspect of the game places a huge question mark over their coaching team. The Cheetahs have always been loved for their running intent, but victories and success will always be built on a solid defense.

The Cheetahs were forced to use regular fullback Clayton Blommetjies at flyhalf. Blommetjies did no necessarily let the team down, but the Cheetahs will be desperate to see their regular flyhalf duo of Neil Marais and Fred Zeilinga back in action as soon as possible.

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Both South African PRO14 Teams Struggle on Debut

Scarlets 57 – Tries: Johnny McNichol 2, Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Patchell, Jake Ball, Emyr Phillips, Hadley Parks and Steffen Evans; Conversions: Leigh Halfpenny 3, Rhys Patchell 4; Penalty: Leigh Halfpenny

Southern Kings 10 – Tries: Yaw Penxe, ; Conversion: Kurt Coleman; Penalty: Kurt Coleman

Key Thoughts

As with the Cheetahs, the Kings carried their Super Rugby problem into the PRO14. Once again, they are starting out with a new squad and had an inadequate preseason preparation. Ten days to be exact.

Despite this, their first half display was a huge surprise. They were very competitive and there most optimistic of supporters may have thought that a big shock was on the cards. It was not to be and the Kings were simply not in the game in the second half. Conditioning was a double edged sword for them. Some of their players have just come off a tough Super Rugby campaign and have been playing for eight months. New additions have not played at this level before.

One thing that the competition can be certain of is that Head Coach Deon Davids has an eye for talent and getting the most out of the resources he has.

Guinness PRO14 Fixtures Next Weekend

Both teams will be back in action next weekend and it does not get any easier. The Cheetahs will be off to Thomond Park to face Munster, and former coach Rassie Erasmus. The Kings will move on to the Sportsground to face Connacht.

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