Premiership rivals Swansea and Aberavon lock horns in Swalec Cup quarter-final
THERE will be more than bragging rights at stake when Swansea host Aberavon tomorrow (2.30pm), as the local rivals battle it out for a place in the Swalec Cup semi-finals.
With both sides struggling in the Principality Premiership this season, the last-eight tie at St Helen's presents them with a precious opportunity to boost their chances of winning silverware this term.
Swansea are bottom of the table having mustered only two league victories so far, though one of those was a 32-13 triumph over Aberavon in September.
The Wizards are only one place above them but, having won two of their last three matches, Simon King's men have been mounting something of a revival.
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And with Swansea victorious on their last Premiership outing away at Bridgend, Whites' team manager Ian Hopkins believes the two sides are beginning to discover their form at just the right moment.
"We're really looking forward to the match, and it should be a good one with both sides playing well recently," he said.
"Aberavon have certainly had a bit of a resurgence in their last few games, while we were delighted with our win over Bridgend.
"We'd had a couple of disappointing performances prior to that, so to win at the Brewery Field gave us a real confidence boost.
"The boys have pulled together and we're looking forward to what should be a tough match against Aberavon."
The Wizards have pedigree in the Swalec Cup, having reached the final in 2011 — and King has his eyes on a return to the Millennium Stadium.
"The cup is a great competition," he said.
"I've enjoyed it as a coach and I used to enjoy it as a player as well. It's great for our young players, who might not get another chance to experience a cup run.
"All the sides left in the cup will think they can go on to win it, and we're no different.
"All four of the quarter-finals will be excellent games, and we're really looking forward to ours."
The fact that tomorrow's encounter at St Helen's is a local derby will add a certain spice to affairs, but King insists the familiarity of the opposition will have no bearing on the game.
"A quarter-final is a quarter-final and a massive match, whoever you're playing," he said.
"It makes a difference for the supporters that it's a local derby, but not for us.
"Since I've been coaching Aberavon, our games with Swansea have been tight.
"I speak regularly to their coach Mefin Davies, as they're in the same region as us, and I'm sure they'll be confident of getting the result.
"It doesn't matter where they are in the league. Wales showed in the Six Nations that, even if you've had a bit of bad form, one win and a bit of confidence can turn it all around.
"The league placings will have no bearing on this game. We're just concentrating on what we have to do to win."
Swansea have no new injury concerns, with hooker Paul John and second row Sam Kiley recovering from shoulder and knee problems respectively to start tomorrow.
Swansea: N. J. Thomas; Richard Williams, C. Shelmerdine, D. Watts, Rhys Williams; C. Clement, J. Cole; M. Norman, P. John, I. Williams, B. Fox, S. Kiley (capt), R. Dudley-Jones, D. Baker, M. Davies. Reps: S. Otten, N. Smith, N. Thomas, R. Hughes, J. Bija, J. Preddy, S. Davies, A. Jenkins.
Aberavon: To be announced.