LOCK Steven Sykes will captain the EP Kings team when they wind up their match preparations for next month’s Absa Currie Cup campaign with a friendly against Western Province at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday (July 25).
In a bid to give all his players some exposure in their build-up to the Currie Cup, Kings coach Brent Janse van Rensburg has predictably introduced a theme of rotation after their friendly against the Blue Bulls last weekend.
There is a new front row in Lizo Gqoboka, Martin Ferreira and Maks van Dyk, while Paul Schoeman will start on the side of the scrum following an injury to Thembelani Bohli last week.
At scrumhalf, Enrico Acker, who scored the only try against the Bulls last weekend, will get his first chance to start for the Kings, while centres Marlou van Niekerk and JP du Plessis have an opportunity to prove themselves in the midfield.
In the other change to the backline, Sylvian Mahuza returns from injury and will start on the wing, with Siviwe Soyizwapi dropping to the bench.
There is plenty of experience on the bench, with players such as Tim Whitehead, Ronnie Cooke, Jacques Engelbrecht and Luke Watson all set to get game time in the second half.
Janse van Rensburg said he was expecting a strong challenge from the Western Province outfit.
“We know WP are a strong team with lots of experience and, knowing coach John Dobson, they will want to play with the ball in hand; they are not scared to run the ball,” Janse van Rensburg said.
“They have an attacking breakdown and we will need to be prepared to defend over multiple phases. It will certainly be a test of our defensive systems.”
The Kings coach, however, said his team were determined to prove themselves.
“The players have been working hard and have put in long hours in the pre-season,” Janse van Rensburg said. “If we were to pull off a win it would be just reward for their efforts and the boys are ready to go out there and give it everything.”
The match kicks off at 19.00.
The EP Kings team is: Lizo Gqoboka, Martin Ferreira, Maks van Dyk, Steven Sykes (captain), Cornell Hess, Paul Schoeman, Stefan Willemse, Tim Agaba, Enrico Acker, George Whitehead (vice-captain), Luther Obi, Marlou van Niekerk, JP du Plessis, Sylvian Mahuza, Scott van Breda.
Replacements: Albe de Swardt, Schalk Ferreira, Simon Kerrod, Tazz Fuzani, Jacques Engelbrecht, Luke Watson, Cameron Lindsay, Kevin Luiters, Karlo Aspeling, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Ronnie Cooke, Tim Whitehead.