Centre Tim Whitehead will captain the EP Kings team in their first rugby friendly in the build-up to their Absa Currie Cup campaign when they take on the Blue Bulls at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday (July 17, kick-off 19.00).
In the first of two friendlies before the opening Currie Cup match against the Lions in Port Elizabeth on August 8, Kings head coach Brent Janse van Rensburg said they would be looking at a process of rotation as they eased the squad back into match practice mode.
Van Rensburg has named a squad of 26 for the match, with 11 players on the replacements list earmarked to get some game time on Friday.
“We will use the next two games to give all the players an opportunity for some match time, without compromising the rhythm and continuity we will be trying to build up,” Janse van Rensburg said.
“For various reasons, several guys are not playing this week but we will look to bring them in for the game against Western Province (on July 25), while keeping a core of players for both matches.”
Veteran loose forward Luke Watson will start on the bench this week and Van Rensburg said they were managing the player’s return after he sustained a slight quad tear. Experienced forwards Schalk Ferreira, Jacques Engelbrecht and Steven Sykes have both been included in the starting line-up.
“Luke has been training hard and very well, but after a slight quad tear we are managing his return and we don’t want to rush him back this weekend,” Janse van Rensburg said. “But everybody will get a chance to play this weekend, with players limited to a maximum 50 minutes on the field.”
Janse van Rensburg said he was expecting a strong contest from the Blue Bulls.
“We know they have a number of young and very talented players in their ranks and we will be in for a very good contest,” he said. “The Bulls will be very keen to do well in the Currie Cup and while they will have their traditional strong forward play, I expect them to test us with ball in hand as well.”
The Kings coach said he felt the two games would provide the best preparation for the Kings team.
“I think the two games is a good balance because we had a few new players joining the squad and it’s given them time to find their feet,” Janse van Rensburg said. “It has also given us more time to prepare for the season, without having that match against the Sharks four weeks before the start of Currie Cup.”
The Kings were due to have played the Sharks on Saturday (July 11), but the match was scrapped after a mutual agreement between the provinces.
The EP Kings team is: Schalk Ferreira, Michael van Vuuren, Basil Short, Stefan Willemse, Steven Sykes (vice-captain), Thembelani Bholi, Jacques Engelbrecht, Tim Agaba, Kevin Luiters, George Whitehead, Luther Obi, Tim Whitehead (captain), Ronnie Cooke, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Scott van Breda
Replacements: Albe de Swardt, Tom Botha, Cameron Lindsay, Luke Watson, Enrico Acker, Karlo Aspeling, Tythan Adams, Lizo Gqoboka, Tazz Fuzani, JP du Plessis, Marlou van Niekerk.
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