PORT ELIZABETH – Southern Kings captain Luke Watson is back in the starting line-up for their Super Rugby clash with the Bulls in Port Elizabeth on Saturday after a lengthy layoff through injury.
Watson was taken off in the first half after suffering a blow to the throat in the Kings’ opening match against Western Force in February and only returned to action for the EP Vodacom Cup side last week.
The loose forward initially expected to play only 60 minutes, but went through the whole match against South Western Districts (SWD), scoring a try as EP won 52-10.
Watson will replace Cornell du Preez at No 8, with Du Preez moving to flank.
Both Watson and Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons said they felt there would be no problem fitting the skipper into the Kings’ pattern of play.
“We were pleased that Luke got through the game against SWD and it set him up for his return, and it’s great to have him back,” Solomons said after the Kings named their team on Tuesday.
Watson believed the side’s solid structures would stand them in good stead on his return.
“We have pretty good structures which have been in place since our campaign started in November,” he said.
“A lot of our inspiration and motivation is internally driven by the team, and with the strong structures we have, I am sure it will be a smooth transition back into the team.”
The Kings have kept their backline intact following last week’s 30-27 win over the Melbourne Rebels, but have made several other changes to the forwards.
Hooker Bandise Maku and prop Kevin Buys return to the front row, while David Bulbring is back at lock in place of Rynier Bernardo, who drops to the bench.
Maku, who has played for the Bulls, said they were expecting a strong physical onslaught from the Pretoria side.
“We have to match them physically up front because they are always strong in the set pieces,” Maku said.
Kings team: George Whitehead, Ronnie Cooke, Waylon Murray, Andries Strauss, Sergeal Petersen, Demetri Catrakilis, Shaun Venter, Schalk Ferreira, Bandise Maku, Kevin Buys, Cornell du Preez, Steven Sykes, David Bulbring, Wimpie van der Walt, Luke Watson (captain). Replacements: Hannes Franklin, Grant Kemp, Rynier Barnardo, Jacques Engelbrecht, Nicolas Vergallo, Marcello Sampson, Siviwe Soyizwapi. – Sapa