Eastern Province Kings head coach, Carlos Spencer, announced a number of changes to the forward pack that will take on the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Loftus this weekend.
Luke Watson will once again lead the team onto the field, having returned to training today [SUBS: Wednesday 20 August] after a bout of flu saw him withdrawn from the side at the last minute last week.
Junior Springbok Aidon Davis, who stood in for Watson at no. 8 against the Lions, will sit this game out due to the flu.
Up front Lizo Gqoboka, Edgar Marutlulle and Tom Botha retain their spots, but Steven Cummins and David Bulbring make way for the more experienced Darron Nell and Steven Sykes.
“Darron and Steven bring with them a bit of physicality up front, which we lacked in the last game and which we will need against the Bulls this week,” he said.
Stefan Willemse moves from outside flank to inside flank, with Thembelani Bholi making way for Paul Schoeman.
“Paul comes in because we felt we just need a bit more energy at the back and have someone who could put a bit of pressure on the breakdown,” he said.
Kevin Luiters also returns to the team, starting at scrumhalf, after missing out on the Lions game after getting a cut below his eye in training last week.
“Tobie [Botes] has had a bit of a problem with his wrist the past few weeks so he’s pulled out and Kevin will take his place, with Jaco [Grobler] on the bench,” he said.
The backs remain unchanged, with Gary van Aswegen at flyhalf, Siviwe Soyizwapi and Ronnie Cooke on wing and Shane Gates and Time Whitehead at inside and outside centre respectively. Scott van Breda will once again start at fullback.
Spencer also announced three new additions to the bench, with Albé de Swardt making way for Mike van Vuuren and former Lions prop, Charles Marais, making his debut for the Kings in place of CJ van der Linde who is out with a calf strain.
“Mike has been doing a lot of conditioning and been working hard over the past few weeks so we felt it was time for him to get an opportunity this week,” he said.
Siyanda Grey also joins the bench in place of Ntabeni Dukisa, who has also battled with a bit of flu as well as having taken a knock to the knee against the Lions.
Also on the bench are Steven Cummins, Thembelani Bholi, Jaco Grobler and George Whitehead.
Spencer said more experience was needed to help steady the team, especially when things were not going well on the field.
“Hopefully Steven and Darron will bring that experience. Especially when we’re down and falling behind on the scoreboard, we’ve had that lack of experience. This is a young group and a lot of them are still learning, so helpfully they will be able to lead by example.”
Spencer said they were expecting a tough game against the Bulls, as both teams would be looking for a win on Saturday.
“They are in a similar position as we are. They have their backs against the wall, they have lost two on the trot, as we have, and we’re going there to their home ground. From what I’ve heard they are under a bit of pressure so they’re going to come out firing,” he said.
Spencer said the team would need to make an impact early on.
“It is important after two losses that you get confidence early so they’re just going to go out there and get stuck into them,” he said.
The team is:
- Lizo Gqoboka
- Edgar Marutlulle
- Tom Botha
- Darron Nel
- Steven Sykes
- Stefan Willemse
- Paul Schoeman
- Luke Watson (Captain)
- Kevin Luiters
- Gary van Aswegen
- Siviwe Soyizwapi
- Shane Gates
- Tim Whitehead
- Ronnie Cooke
- Scott van Breda
- Mike van Vuuren
- Charles Marais
- Steven Cummins
- Themelani Bholi
- Jaco Grobler
- George Whitehead
- Siyanda Grey