Johannesburg – Southern Kings boss Alan Solomons will be going for broke in the second promotion-relegation match against the Lions on Saturday, opting to field a hugely experienced midfield pairing, and having no choice but to throw George Whitehead in at flyhalf.
Injuries have robbed the Kings of several key players for the two promotion-relegation matches, among them Luke Watson and Andries Strauss and now Demetri Catrakilis will also miss out in Johannesburg this weekend.
The Lions go into the match having won 26-19 in Port Elizabeth last Friday to have the advantage in the race for a Super Rugby place next year. Johan Ackermann’s men take four points into the game, while the Kings picked up a losing bonus point.
If the Kings are to retain their Super Rugby status they will have to beat the Lions and deny their hosts a bonus point.
The odds are heavily stacked against the Kings and Solomons has decided to field Springbok midfielder Waylon Murray alongside former Cheetahs man Ronnie Cooke in the centres.
They’ll come up against Stokkies Hanekom – the scorer of the Lions’ two tries in Port Elizabeth – and Dylan Des Fountain.
And inside them, Whitehead, who has played at fullback for the Kings for most of the season, will don the No 10 jersey in place of Catrakilis who is out of action for six weeks with a hand injury. The newcomer to the back division is Scott van Breda, who’ll make his first start for the Kings on the wing this season.
The pack is unchanged from last weekend, something that will give captain Darron Nell and Co plenty of confidence going into the must-win match.
Lions boss Johan Ackermann will name his line-up tomorrow, but his only change to the line-up that won in PE will probably come on the wing where either Deon Helberg or Chrysander Botha will replace the injured Deon van Rensburg.
The match, originally scheduled to kick off at 3pm, has been moved to a 5pm kick-off after the Kings’ Cheeky Watson requested the later time.
Meanwhile, in a huge blow to rugby in the Eastern Cape, Kings director of rugby Solomons has been appointed head coach at Edinburgh in Scotland.
He will join up with the side next week ahead of the new European season.
Kings: SP Marais, Hadleigh Parkes, Ronnie Cooke, Waylon Murray, Scott van Breda, George Whitehead, Shaun Venter, Jacques Engelbrecht, Wimpie van der Walt, Cornell du Preez, David Bulbring, Darron Nell (capt), Kevin Buys, Bandise Maku, Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: Charl du Plessis, Hannes Franklin, Steven Sykes, Devin Oosthuizen, Nicolas Vergallo, Wesley Dunlop, Shane Gates
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