THE young guns in the Southern Kings team are gaining valuable Super Rugby experience on their overseas tour that will stand them in good stead as the competition progresses. “Playing overseas is important for a number of reasons,” said seasoned Kings star Andries Strauss ahead of his team’s crunch showdown against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday (kick-off 5.35am SA time).
When the season kicked off last month, rising stars like Sergeal Petersen, Jacques “Vleis” Engelbrecht, Cornell du Preez and Wimpie van der Walt had never played a game of Super Rugby.
On Saturday, they will be playing their fifth game and Strauss says the experience will be invaluable as the season progresses.
“It is good that the young guys get experience playing abroad against New Zealand and Australian teams,” Strauss said.
“It is something you can only get used to by doing it. If you look at the results of South African teams playing overseas, it is only lately that they have been able to get a couple of wins on tour.
“Clearly it is tough to play overseas and it is important for players to experience this early in their careers so they can become better players as the competition progresses.”
Strauss, the Kings backline enforcer, is one of the most experienced members of the team, having previously played Super Rugby for the Cheetahs and Sharks. Engelbrecht has made a big impression with his driving play since he came on as a substitute after Luke Watson injured his throat in the Kings’ opening game against the Western Force.
It was in that game that Petersen also made an immediate impression with two tries that enabled the Kings to pull off a shock opening win against the Australians.
However, the young guns will not have much time to mature because unless the Kings manage to pull themselves off the bottom of the log, they will be facing a promotion-relegation match against the Lions at the end of the season.
The rookie Kings are bottom of the South African conference with eight points from four games, five points adrift of the Cheetahs who have played a game more.
Strauss and lock Steven Sykes are expected to be included in the Kings starting line-up when the team is named today.
Both players were missing when the Kings crashed to a 55-20 defeat to the Crusaders and their leadership will be crucial in what promises to be a tough match.
Hooker Hannes Franklin will stake a strong claim for a berth in the match-day squad after having recovered from injury.
It is expected that Strauss will lead the team which means the Kings will have had five captains in as many matches. The captaincy “merry-go-round” started when Watson took a blow to the throat in the opening match against the Western Force.
Then, replacement Darron Nell, who strained a calf muscle in the warm-up before the encounter with the Chiefs, was replaced by Sykes.
In another unfortunate twist, Sykes was sidelined for the Crusaders game which resulted in prop Schalk Ferreira leading the side.
Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons confirmed yesterday that Strauss, Sykes and Franklin would all be available for consideration for the Hurricanes showdown.
This weekend’s fixtures:
Tomorrow: Highlanders v Reds Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin 8.35.
SaturdayHurricanes v Southern Kings Westpac Stadium, Wellington 5.35am, Chiefs v Blues Bay Park Stadium, Mt Manganui 8.35, Brumbies v Bulls Canberra Stadium, Canberra 10.40, Cheetahs v Rebels Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein 5.05, Stormers v Crusaders DHL Newlands, Cape Town 7.10.
Sunday: Waratahs v Force Allianz Stadium, Sydney 7.05am