A WEEK after being stripped of his captain’s armband, Eastern Province Kings fullback Mzwandile Stick has been omitted from the side to take on the South Western Districts (SWD) in the Kings’ opening Currie Cup First Division match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Friday.
Kings coach Alan Solomons named his 22-man squad yesterday (July 11), with two changes to the starting lineup and one on the bench.
Livewire SP Marais will take the place of Stick at fullback, with Marcello Sampson returning to the wing to replace former SWD flyer Joe Breytenbach.
Despite playing one of his best games last weekend, where he scored a try in the Kings 26-20 defeat to the Free State Cheetahs, Stick has surprisingly been dropped in what Eastern Province are calling a rotation policy.
Marais will make his first start since sustaining a shoulder injury on the Kings’ tour of Romania in the Nations Cup last month.
“SP [Marais] was unavailable last week due to his shoulder being damaged against Portugal. Now is the chance to have a look at him at fullback. This is a bit of rotation to the team,” coach Solomons said.
“Sampson returns after recovering from the ankle injury he sustained in the [Nations Cup] opening match against Georgia.”
The Kings have declared their intentions to excel, but at the same time will not underestimate any of their opponents in the First Division this season.
Solomons indicated his side were settled ahead of the kick-off to the Currie Cup.
“We are in a much better situation than we were in last year. We can appreciate the fact that at numbers eight [Luke Watson], nine [Falie Oelschig], and 10 [Louis Strydom] we have key decision-makers.
“One thing we learnt is it was not an easy competition, and we could not underestimate any of our opponents. We need to finish in the top position of the log.
“We knew it last year, but we did not do it,” he said.
The coach said, taking into consideration the team’s loss to the Cheetahs, his troops needed to take their opportunities in the matches and finish better.
He said his side’s penalty count had been too high and there had been too many handling errors, which had adversely affected a game that could have seen a different result had his side made fewer mistakes.
The Kings’ clash against arch-rivals SWD kicks off at 7pm on Friday.
The Kings team is:
Backs: SP Marais, Marcello Sampson, Siyanda Grey, Wayne Stevens, Norman Nelson, Louis Strydom, Falie Oelschig; Forwards: Jaco Engels, Hannes Franklin, Clint Newland, Barend Pieterse, Ross Kennedy, Jacques Potgieter, Devin Oosthuizen, Luke Watson. Replacements: Riaan Vermeulen, Frank Herne, Wayne van Heerden, Jacques Engelbrecht, Danie Faasen, George Whitehead, Jaco Bekker.