Port Elizabeth – Lock Darron Nell will make his first appearance for the Southern Kings and take over the captaincy as Luke Watson drops to the bench for Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby encounter against the Sharks in Port Elizabeth.
Watson was injured in the Kings’ 22-10 victory over the Western Force in their top flight debut two weeks ago, suffering a blow to the throat which caused extensive inflammation.
Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons said the loose forward’s spot on the bench would be evaluated later in the week after a final fitness test.
“We are hoping Luke will be alright to take his place this weekend, but we will assess his position later,” Solomons said on Tuesday.
“Because we have such a big game against the Sharks this weekend, we did not want to delay the naming of the starting XV. We want it settled early in the week, hence we have to put Luke on the bench.”
Watson’s place in the team has been taken by Jacques Engelbrecht, who made a big impact with his driving play against the Force, helping the Kings to victory.
Lock David Bulbring drops to the bench in place of Daniel Adongo, while Nicolas Vergallo replaces Johan Herbst among the substitutes.
Nell has been a regular in the EP Kings set-up since playing for the invitation team which took on the 2009 British Lions and has proved a strong leader of the Eastern Province side.
“Darron has been with us from the start, in fact, longer than I have,” Solomons said.
“He has led the EP team with distinction. He will get strong support from vice-captain Andries Strauss and (lock) Steven Sykes who did such a good job when Luke left the field against the Force.”
Nell, who led a Kings franchise side in a friendly against the Sharks last year, said he was delighted to be included in the set-up.
“It’s a great honour to be here as the captain but we are facing a very different challenge from last year,” he said.
“This is a completely different ballgame, but we will be ready for it.”
Playing against one of South Africa’s top Super Rugby teams, Solomons said they hoped to have a full stadium in support after 32 000 fans came to watch the game against the Force.
“It’s good to have a few (three) home games to start with and we are hoping to have a full house on Saturday,” Solomons said.
“Given that the Sharks are one of South Africa’s premier teams, and from our encouraging performance against the Force, we are hoping for strong support.”
Kings team: SP Marais, Marcello Sampson, Ronnie Cooke, Andries Strauss, Sergeal Petersen, Demetri Catrakilis, Shaun Venter, Schalk Ferreira, Bandise Maku, Kevin Buys, Cornell du Preez, Darron Nell (captain),Steven Sykes, Wimpie van der Walt, Jacques Engelbrecht. Replacements: Edgar Marutlulle, Jaco Engels, David Bulbring, Luke Watson, Nicolas Vergallo, George Whitehead, Hadleigh Parkes. – Sapa