IN a bid to end a worrying four-match losing streak, the Southern Kings have changed their starting line-up to face the table-topping Brumbies in Canberra tomorrow (10.40am).
The clash promises to be the Kings’ toughest Super Rugby assignment so far as the new-look side face an outfit brimful of confidence after winning five of their opening six matches.
In contrast, the Kings are bottom of the South African conference.
Hooker Hannes Franklin replaces Bandise Maku in the starting line-up, while Argentine scrumhalf Nicholas Vergallo takes over from Shaun Venter, who moves to the bench.
In another significant move, hard-working Cornell du Preez returns from injury (tight hamstring) and starts at No8, with Jacques Engelbrecht going to the bench. There has also been a revamp in the front row, with Grant Kemp in the starting line-up and Kevin Buys now among the replacements.
Towering lock forward Rynier Bernardo moves up from the bench and he will relish this opportunity to impress against the Australians.
Waylon Murray will partner skipper Andries Strauss at centre and the dynamic duo will be hoping to breach the formidable Brumbies defence.
A notable move in the backline is the switch of Ronnie Cooke to left wing, with Murray starting at centre.
Southern Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons said the changes had been made through a combination of injuries and the policy of rotating the players because of the intensity of the competition to date.
“Waylon has come back from a long injury and hadn’t played for a year. We’ve built him up to play, giving him 30 minutes against Border in the Vodacom Cup, 30 minutes against the Crusaders, and 55 minutes against the Hurricanes.
“We felt that the time was right to let Waylon start,” Solomons said.
“Also, Ronnie has been one of the leading lights in our team,” he said.
“He’s played a lot of his rugby at left wing when he was overseas, so he moves into that position.”
Solomon said while the scan had been clear on Venter’s ankle, there were concerns that he had not been able to train during the week.
Meanwhile, Wallabies centre Pat McCabe will be back to boost the Brumbies, who lead the overall Super Rugby log and the Australian conference.
Coach Jake White is expected to make several changes.
Hooker Stephen Moore appears likely to be rotated to the bench, so opening the door for Siliva Siliva to earn his starting cap after a run of injuries.
McCabe has played only 30 minutes of rugby since breaking his neck while on tour with the Wallabies last November.
“Pat is fine – he has pulled up nicely so in all likelihood he will be involved this week and that’s positive for us,” White said.
“We haven’t had Jesse Mogg for two weeks, so to get a guy like Pat back is fantastic.
“We are in a really good space and the nice thing is that getting a guy like Pat back is not bad going into this part of the campaign.”
Southern Kings team: George Whitehead, Ronnie Cooke, Waylon Murray, Andries Strauss (captain), Sergeal Petersen, Demetri Catrakilis, Nicolas Vergallo, Schalk Ferreira, Hannes Franklin, Grant Kemp, Devin Oosthuizen, Steven Sykes, Rynier Bernardo, Wimpie van der Walt, Cornell du Preez. Replacements: Bandise Maku, Kevin Buys, David Bulbring, Jacques Engelbrecht, Shaun Venter, Marcello Sampson, Elric van Vuuren