The Isuzu Southern Kings are hoping that their try-grabbing former Junior Springbok wing Yaw Penxe will be ready to play their next Guinness PRO 14 match against Connacht, but they are not banking on it.
Injuries have played havoc with the planning of the interim Kings head coach Robbi Kempson in the early part of the PRO 14 season, and if Penxe manages to win his race against time to be fit it will provide a confidence boost to the Eastern Cape team.
“We are hoping to have Yaw back playing next week and there is a chance it can happen but at this point it still looks a bit unlikely,” said Kempson.
The Kings squad leaves for Ireland for what will be their second overseas tour of their campaign on Monday and the areas of concern are scrumhalf and the front-row. Kempson is relieved to have Stefan Ungerer returning from injury after reserve scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius was left as the last fit No9 once Josh Aldermann left the field early in the match against the Ospreys in Swansea.
“At this stage we are down to just one scrumhalf, so it will be good to have Stefan back from injury next week and hopefully available to play. With Josh out, it means both the other scrumhalves on our books are injured at the moment.”
Given how heavily they were penalised in the scrums against the Ospreys it was a miracle that the Kings managed to record their first every away win in the PRO 14. There were several factors that conspired against the Kings, but Kempson says thin front row resources because of injury were definitely a primary contributor.
“We have seven props out, including our three frontline looseheads if you factor in Schalk Ferreira, and that has been particularly problematic, as you would have seen in the Ospreys game. On top of that, hooker Elandre van Rooyen is also doubtful for the Connacht game,” he said.
Sharks prop Juan Schoeman is playing for the Kings on loan but will be heading back to Durban after Connacht to start the build-up to the next Vodacom Super Rugby team. Veteran Pumas prop De-Jay Terblanche is playing for the Kings on a short-term loan encompassing the next two games.
Kempson is hopeful that the gap between the Connacht match and the Kings’ next engagement, which is the clash with Edinburgh at Murrayfield in the first week of January, will be enough time for the bulk of his injured front-row players to return to the playing field. It is unlikely though that flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, out with a hip flexor, will be back by then.
“Demetri is out for six more weeks so I don’t think he will make the Edinburgh game,” said Kempson.
While the injuries have created problems, Kempson was heartened by the way his players played for each other in the win over the Ospreys, which entered the history books as the first victory recorded by the Kings overseas in the PRO 14.
“It was a gutsy performance. I am relatively pleased with how we are tracking. We were unlucky in the first two games but then Ulster were very good when they played us in Port Elizabeth and we had a bit of a blow out against Glasgow, where I wasn’t happy with our defensive effort. But the defence was outstanding against the Ospreys and more of that will hold us in good stead going forward.
“The biggest area that requires improving is obviously our first phase play. We need to give our talented backs attacking opportunities, something we are not managing to do at the moment. We also need to play the territory game better in the overseas games.
“We started well against the Ospreys but then went into our shells a bit and lost the territory game after that. We need to take our chances when they come. Maybe in Super Rugby you can get away with missed opportunities here and there, but in the PRO 14 scoring chances are fewer so you need to take them when they come.”
The Kings squad for the trip to Connacht will be named on Thursday.