The team captained by Paul Schoeman, who led the team last week against Western Province after Stephan Zaayman was withdrawn due to injury, has nine changes to the starting 15 and 10 new faces in the 22.
Up front Albe de Swardt is joined by Lizo Gqoboka, who comes up from the bench and Charl du Plessis. Zaayman returns at number 4 alongside Rynier Bernardo who returns to the team after a break last week.
“It’s great that Stephan is available to play for us after his injury last week, but I want him to focus on his playing. Paul did a great job of leading the team last week, and it is vital that there is continuity for the team,” Stick said.
Thembelani Bholi keeps his spot at blindside flanker and Schoeman remains at openside flanker, with Aidon Davis coming up from the bench to eighth man. Jaco Grobler and George Whitehead make their first appearance this season at scrumhalf and flyhalf respectively.
Selvyn Davids earned himself a starting position on left wing, where he will play alongside Sergeal Petersen at right wing.
“Selvyn has proven to be a great impact player off the bench and we felt it was only fair that he gets a chance to start,” said Stick.
Another surprise change was the absence of Tiger Mangweni from the team, who makes way for youngster Luan Nieuwoudt at inside centre, who comes up from last year’s EP U/19 team. “Tiger is still available for team selection,” said Stick. “We just felt that this was a great opportunity, what with the number of senior players in the side, to give a youngster like Luan an opportunity to play. I feel he has a great future ahead of him and could be one of the best centres to come from this region,” he said.
Brian Skosana remains at outside centre with Masixole “Coyi” Banda retaining his spot at fullback.
“Like I said last week, players who have proven themselves on the field will be given a fair chance and both Brian and Coyi have been playing exceptionally well of late,” he said.
Dane van der Westhuyzen, BG Uys, Tyler Paul and Siphesihle Punguzwa complete the list of new faces to the team, joining Sonwabo Majola, Siphumelelo Msutwana and Ntabeni Dukisa on the bench.
Schoeman said the team was looking to bounce back from their defeat against Western Province last week.
“We have been focusing on better communication on the field and keeping our concentration on the game throughout, which is going to be a lot easier with the more senior players in the team,” he said.
Stick said he predicted that the game would be tough, but was confident, as he had the best possible team he could field while maintaining a balance of senior and junior players.
“There are a few former players from the region who are playing for the Free State XV side and they will be looking to prove a point,” he said.
“We can’t afford to lose any more games, but we have our work cut out for us against Free State, Eagles and Sharks, who are all in the top 4 along with Western Province,” he said.
Stick said the team was looking forward to playing the game in Cradock.
“When we heard that Cradock was celebrating their 200th anniversary, we felt that this was a perfect opportunity for us to celebrate with them and give back to the community at the same time,” he said.
“Cradock is a part of our region and there is a lot of support for us there, so this is a great opportunity for us to interact with them and give something back.”
The Vodacom Cup squad leave for Cradock on 26 March 2014, and will be conducting a coaching clinic with the local schools tomorrow afternoon as well as taking part in a number of activities in the build up to the game on Saturday.
The match takes place at the Cradock Sportsfields, with kickoff at 16:00.
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