CAPE TOWN – They made their names in the southern hemisphere, and now they will stride forth to conquer the north.
The Southern Kings’ first match-23 for the PRO14 was named by coach Deon Davids on Thursday, and it features a number of their warriors who impressed during Super Rugby earlier this season as they prepare to take on defending champions Scarlets in Llanelli, Wales on Saturday (6.30pm SA time).
Grey PE old boy Mike Willemse will captain the team from hooker, while star No 8 Andisa Ntsila is back in the loose trio, although he will have two new flank partners – Victor Sekekete (formerly Lions) and Khaya Majola (ex-Sharks).
About half of the Super Rugby backline is still intact in the shape of Masixole Banda, Yaw Penxe and centres Berton Klaasen and Luzuko Vulindlu, but they have brought in some serious firepower elsewhere.
Sharks flyer Sbura Sithole finally returns to the big stage, having been largely sidelined in Durban over the last few years despite nearly making the Springbok squad under Heyneke Meyer.
In addition, there is a new halfback combination in Kurt Coleman and Rudi van Rooyen.
The bench is also loaded with exciting talent, such as Godlen Masimla at scrumhalf, Ntabeni Dukisa at flyhalf and lock Bobby de Wee.
“I will encourage the guys to play the way we are used to playing – that is playing towards where our pace is, making good decisions and recognising and using areas of space,” Davids said.
“We also need to be wary of the fact that games are not only won with ball-in-hand, our biggest challenge will be our work-rate, intensity and physicality without the ball. That will be a big ask for us.
“They (Scarlets) have strength all over in their team and are a team that likes to play with ball-in-hand. They are quite dangerous if you concede turnovers against them, and they have quite a good set-piece.
“We need not be afraid to impose ourselves in terms of what we need to do.”
* Both the Southern Kings match and the Cheetahs PRO14 game against Ulster on Friday (8.35pm) will be broadcast live on DSTV SuperSport 1 (channel 201).
Southern Kings Team
15 Masixole Banda, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Sbura Sithole, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Rudi van Rooyen, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Victor Sekekete, 6 Khaya Majola, 5 Dries van Schalkwyk, 4 Jurie van Vuuren, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Mike Willemse (captain), 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Bench: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Luvuyo Pupuma, 18 Entienne Swanepoel, 19 Bobby de Wee, 20 Siyabulela Mdaka, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Ntabeni Dukisa, 23 Jacques Nel.