TOUGH decisions will confront the Southern Kings coaching staff when they gather for training on Monday morning, ahead of their crunch first-leg relegation showdown against the Lions on Friday.
Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons’s preparations were badly disrupted on Friday, when skipper Andries Strauss broke his left hand at training.
The untimely injury means that apart from finding a new centre, they must also name a new captain to replace Strauss, who has been the backline general for the Kings this season.
The frontrunner to join Ronnie Cooke at centre appears to be former Springbok Waylon Murray, who will relish a chance to shine in the big showdown at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Other options are New Zealand import Hadleigh Parkes, and the exciting Shane Gates. Leadership in the heat of battle against the Lions will be crucial, and the obvious replacement as captain would appear to be experienced lock Steven Sykes, who has led the team before.
Ahead of the game, Kings rugby boss Cheeky Watson has urged his team to improve their attack dramatically, after accusations that they lack punch in the midfield. “We need to put a lot more emphasis on our attack and we must pick it up,” said Watson ahead of his team’s most important match of the season.
After Friday’s first-leg relegation showdown, the teams will resume battle in the return leg at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on August 3.
South Africa Rugby officials have confirmed that a “mini-log format” will be used to decide the outcome of what promises to be a dramatic fight for survival.
Watson said the play-off matches could be the most-watched of the Super Rugby season. “There is interest across the world in what happens here,” he said. The hard-working Kings chairman said there were no extra cash incentives on the table for the players to perform in the relegation battle.
“When we played a promotion game against the Pumas in 2010 we raised (money) for the players and it did not make a difference,” Watson said.