Milestones loom for veteran Highlanders prop
April 25, 2014
Personal milestones will take a back seat for Chris King when the Highlanders meet Super Rugby competition leaders the Sharks in Durban.
King will become the Highlanders' most-capped prop, overtaking Carl Hoeft who played 98 games for the franchise. But for King, who turns 33 next Wednesday, the looming personal milestones are secondary to the Highlanders continuing their steady progress this season.
They beat the Bulls 27-20 in Dunedin in their last outing, the first of four consecutive matches against South African sides.
"They're always a physical bunch," King said of the South Africans. "They're big and very direct in the forwards, and there's that special rivalry between Kiwi and South African sides. New Zealand derbies and games against Aussie teams are high-tempo but the Africans tend to be more forward-orientated. They like to maul and they are very full on with their runners."
King is one of New Zealand's most experienced props, totalling 118 first-class games for Canterbury, Otago, Southland and Taranaki and 114 Super games for the Highlanders and Crusaders. He knows just how tough the Sharks can be, but says the Highlanders have won in Durban before and can do it again.
"Everyone has to be on top of their game. If you are five per cent off in this competition, you'll be exposed."
The Sharks have won seven of their eight games and lead the table with 31 points while the Highlanders have four wins and 19 points from seven matches to sit eighth overall.
King has played at tighthead prop in recent times with Kane Hames nailing down the loosehead role.
"I was brought up as a loosehead but over the past few years I've played more as a tighthead," King said. "But I still like going over to the loosehead and having a bit of fun."
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has tweaked his team after the bye week: Jarrad Hoeata replaces the injured Brad Thorn and Nasi Manu returns to the starting line-up at No.8, while Elliot Dixon moves to the blindside flank.
Highlanders: Ben Smith, Richard Buckman, Malakai Fekitoa, Shaun Treeby, Patrick Osborne, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Nasi Manu, Shane Christie, Elliot Dixon, Joe Wheeler, Jarrad Hoeata, Chris King, Liam Coltman, Kane Hames. Reserves: Ged Robinson, Craig Millar, Ma'afu Fia, Josh Bekhuis, Gareth Evans, Fumiaki Tanaka, Trent Renata, John Hardie.
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