Port Elizabeth – Southern Kings caretaker coach Robbi Kempson is determined his team will give the Cheetahs a thorough workout when they clash in their Super Rugby warm-up game at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday (kick-off 5pm).
Big rugby returns to Port Elizabeth for the first time since the completion of last year's Super Rugby competition and the Southern Kings, on the outside looking in this year, will be determined to make a big impact.
Speaking at the team announcement this week, Kempson said their aim would be to start with their experienced players and then introduce some youthful talent as the match progressed.
“We know the Cheetahs will probably field their strongest side, so we will kick off with the old heads and then bring on the young guns,” Kempson said.
“It is important to build up momentum for our team at this stage of the season and we have got to give them the best possible opposition.”
Kempson said they were not looking necessarily to prove a point as he saw the Kings as a work in progress.
“We are trying to build something here and that is why there is a mixture of older guys and youngsters. The Kings are trying to build long term and this is not about short-term statements. This is a long term project,” Kempson said.
Southern Kings skipper Darron Nell is hoping his team can produce some entertaining rugby, banking on the coaching expertise of former New Zealand flyhalf Carlos Spencer to introduce the X-factor.
“We have worked on a few things about the way we want to play and our backline coach Carlos Spencer has also brought in a few great ideas that have worked well in training,” Nell said.
“The Kings had a warm-up game within the squad last week and you could see as soon as we retained the ball we could play a bit.”
The Cheetahs, meanwhile, will be hoping flyhalf Johan Goosen will quickly find his stride after being sidelined for a lengthy period through injury. The highly-rated pivot comes in for Elgar Watts and will be keen to confirm his credentials after being the frontline Springbok choice before being struck by injury.
The Kings may be happy talented fullback Willie le Roux is being rested after falling on a shoulder, but Hennie Daniller brings plenty of experience and a booming boot. He is equally capable of punishing the Kings if their execution is in any way faulty.
Jean Cook, who joined from the Bulls this year, will start at No 6 after the Cheetahs coaches had a look at him last week in warm-up games. He successfully recovered from a hand injury and impressed when he came off the bench in their 66-19 win over Shimlas last Friday. He comes in for Boom Prinsloo who moves to the bench.
Southern Kings: BG Uys, Dane van der Westhuyzen, Pieter Stemmet, Steven Sykes, Rynier Bernardo, Paul Schoeman, Darron Nell (captain), Devin Oosthuizen, Jaco Grobler, George Whitehead, Michael Killian, Dwayne Jenner, Ronnie Cooke, Sergeal Petersen, Siviwe Soyizwapi. Replacements: Albe de Swardt, Brenden Olivier, Vukile Sofisa, Stephan Zaayman, Stephan Greef, Thembelani Bholi, Claude Tshidibi, Sonwabo Majola, Shane Gates, Ntabeni Dukisa, Brian Skosana.
Cheetahs: Hennie Daniller, Cornal Hendricks, Johann Sadie, Francois Venter, Raymond Rhule, Johan Goosen, Kevin Luiters, Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, Jean Cook, Lood de Jager, Francois Uys, Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: Ryno Barnes, Caylib Oosthuizen, Nicolaas van Dyk, Ligtoring Landman, Boom Prinsloo, Shaun Venter, Elgar Watts, Rayno Benjamin. – Sapa