Port Elizabeth – Darron Nell will captain an EP Kings side eager to prove themselves when they meet Wales in an international rugby friendly at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.
Although Kings coach Carlos Spencer said the match came at an early stage in terms of their Currie Cup preparations, the players were keen to get on to the field after several months of a conditioning and fitness programme.
The Kings, who will play in the Currie Cup premier division this season, starting in August, host Wales in the opening match of their South African tour. Tuesday’s game will be followed by Tests on June 14 and 21.
“Our preparations have been really good in terms of conditioning and strength,” Spencer said.
“The guys have been working hard off the field, and now they are really looking forward to what happens on the field.
“We now need to see if the hard work they have done without the ball pays off.”
Several recently contracted Kings players, such as Springbok prop CJ van der Linde and former Sharks centre Tim Whitehead, had not been included in Tuesday’s line-up as they had only linked up with the Kings on Monday.
Spencer said they were busy integrating the new players into the system with an eye on preparing them for the opening Currie Cup fixture against Western Province.
Experienced flank Luke Watson remained on the sidelines as he continued his rehabilitation from a long-term injury.
“Luke wanted to play on Tuesday, but we really need to make sure he is 100 percent fit when he returns,” Spencer said.
The Kings coach would be using the warm-up matches — they also play Super Rugby friendlies against the Bulls (June 20) and the Sharks (July 4) — to assess his players ahead of the Currie Cup.
“We really want to see what the guys are capable of and to gain some confidence and continuity,” he said.
“The main goal is August 8 and I want to see what the work rate and work ethic are like in these warm-up matches.”
Spencer said it was a great opportunity for the Kings players to test themselves against a top international side, although they would be concentrating more on their own performances.
“Honestly, we have not spoken much about Wales and want to focus on our own structures,” he said.
“But we know they are a great team who will play a good style of rugby.”
The EP Kings team: Hansie Greeff, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Ronnie Cooke, Shane Gates, Scott van Breda, George Whitehead, Kevin Luiters, Lizo Gqoboka, Edgar Marutlulle, Charl du Plessis, Darron Nell (captain), Cameron Lindsay, Thembelani Bholi, Devin Oosthuizen, Paul Schoeman.
Reserves: Albe de Swardt, BG Uys, Simon Kerrod, Steven Cummins, Stefan Willemse, Jaco Grobler, Dwayne Jenner, Ntabeni Dukisa.