South African PRO14 Teams Struggle in Round Two

9th September 2017, Galway Sportsground, Galway, Ireland; Guinness Pro14 Rugby, Connacht versus Southern Kings; Bundee Aki (Connacht) gets past Luzuko Vulindlu (Southern Kings) (Photo by Ashley Cahill/Action Plus via Getty Images)

The two South African PRO14 teams struggles continued again in round two of the competition.

South African PRO14 Teams Struggle in Round Two

There is very little new to report on either the Cheetahs or the Kings. The Cheetahs remain completely at sea on defense. The Kings are well coached and punch above their weight, but lack the quality and depth in their squad is a real concern.

Munster 52 Toyota Cheetahs 18

Munster – Tries: Alex Wootton 4, Tommy O’Donnell, Jean Kleyn, Chris Farrell and Simon Zebo Conversions: Ian Keatley 4 Penalty: Ian Keatley

Cheetahs – Tries: William Small-Smith and Henco Venter Conversion: Robbie Petzer Penalties: Robbie Petzer 2

The match summary of this game could be a repeat of their performance last week. Their error rate in completing the basics was far too high for this level of competition. Not kicking penalties out, passing wildly to no-one in particular and not sticking to defensive channels was the order of the day.

With a few exceptions, their maul defense was poor. Out wide, their defensive structure was in tatters. Sergeal Petersen continually found himself drifting towards the outside center channel. Alex Wootton had a field day, dotting down on four occasions. Replacement Simon Zebo joined in the fun, scoring on the Cheetahs right flank. At ruck time the Cheetahs were also ineffective. Not committing numbers to the breakdown cost them possession a number of times.

The Cheetahs are struggling to adapt to the Northern Hemisphere style of play. They played a frenetic game plan in Super Rugby and it did not work. That is why they found themselves chopped from the competition, among the additional financial considerations. They now face mature defensive patterns and conditions that demand solid forward play and breaking the opposition down up front. These are strangely enough traditional South African characteristics. The sooner their coaching group accepts this, the better for the Cheetahs.

Connacht 32  Southern Kings 10

Connacht – Tries: Tom Farrell, Eoghan Masterson, John Muldoon and Darren Leader Conversions: Jack Carty 3 Penalties: Jack Carty 2

Southern Kings – Tries: Berton Klaasen and Luvuyo Pupuma

Unlike the Cheetahs, the Kings actually showed an improvement, albeit only marginal improvement. They were fairly competitive throughout the game, but it must be noted that they will face stronger challenges than Connacht during this campaign. Connacht are also in a rebuilding phase and have struggled to find their feet over the last few seasons.

In their three seasons in Super Rugby the Kings relied on a solid pack to be very competitive in the tight phases, allowing them to be more adventurous out wide. They have lost the bulk of their Super Rugby squad from last season and the current pack are not as strong. Connacht used this to their advantage to dominate the Kings up front. With poor first phase possession, the Kings were unable to mount a serious challenge to beat the weakest Irish team.

The Kings will now face Leinster at their home ground, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday 16 September. The Cheetahs welcome the Italian team Zebre to the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein on Sunday 17 September.

After two tough opening fixtures in a competition they do not know in conditions they do not know, both teams will be eager to lay down a marker at home for the rest of the season.

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