The Kings have named their team for their debut match in Super Rugby this weekend against the Force.
“As you can see the starting line-up is the same to the warm up game against the Griquas,” said director of rugby, Alan Solomons.
“There are no major injuries, aside from Michael Killian with his broken arm and Hannes (Franklin) with his knee. Nicolás Vergallo played 30 minutes but he’s still not 100% and we have decided not to field him,” said Solomons.
Also absent from the line-up is Virgile Lacombe, who is still recovering from a rib injury.
Solomons said he was confident in the team going into their first match, despite the unfortunate loss against Griquas last week. The warm up game had given a number of players the opportunity to get some quality game time in ahead of the super rugby season.
“The execution in the Griquas game was not where it was meant to be, but the game was all about preparation and we got a lot of good out of it,” he said.
Head coach Matt Sexton said he was happy with the team taking to the field, and that the squad was looking good. He said the team had done as much as they could in preparation for their debut.
“Whatever we could do, we’ve done as far as preparation goes,” he said.
Captain of the team, Luke Watson, said it was great to be starting the season off with a home game, allowing the Southern Kings to run out in the official kit for their debut match in front of a home crowd.
The Southern Kings team includes several players who have not played Super Rugby before.
“We have experienced players like Bandise Maku and Andries Strauss who have played a lot of Super Rugby, but on the flip side there are some who have not. We all have to start somewhere and we have no doubt in the ability and commitment of those guys who will be pulling on a Super Rugby jersey for the first time.”
Watson said the team was also fine with the label of underdogs, and that the mood among the players was good.
“The Kings do not mind the label of underdog. We want to quietly go about our business and make sure we represent ourselves properly and that we are competitive and play to the best of our ability,” Watson said.
Watson said the team had been putting in a lot of hard work in the build up to the season, that training had now gone from quantity to quality, and that there was a lot of excitement in the camp.
Asked about the negativity around the Southern Kings entry into Super Rugby, Watson said the players were not allowing themselves to be distracted.
“The preparations for the game have been so intense and our players are so focused on what needs to be done that we have not focused on any publicity the team has gotten,” he said.
Watson said the match, expected to attract more than 30 000 fans, was important for the team and the region and encouraged the general public to come out and support the players.
“Playing Super Rugby is not a victory for the Southern Kings. It is a victory for the Eastern Cape,” he said.
Kings team for Force
15. SP Marais
11. Marcello Sampson
13. Ronnie Cooke
12. Andries Strauss (Vice Captain)
14. Sergeal Petersen
10. Demetri Catrakilis
9. Shaun Venter
1. Schalk Ferreira
2. Bandise Maku
3. Kevin Buys
6. Cornell du Preez
4. David Bulbring
5. Steven Sykes
7. Wimpie van der Walt
8. Luke Watson (Captain)
16. Edgar Marutlulle
17. Jaco Engels
18. Daniel Adongo
19. Jacques Engelbrecht
20. Johan Herbst
21. George Whitehead
22. Hadleigh Parkes