THE Southern Kings have rung the changes for their trip to Bloemfontein to play the high-flying Cheetahs in a Super Rugby showdown on Saturday. Centre Andries Strauss will lead the side after Luke Watson was dropped to the bench after the Kings slumped to a heavy 34-0 defeat against the Bulls last Saturday.
Watson’s relegation means Jacques “Vleis” Engelbrect will have a chance to start against the Free Staters.
Engelbrecht’s inclusion was one of several changes made to the team which failed to fire against the Bulls.
While it had been thought that teen wing Sergeal Petersen would be fit to take his place in the team, he was ruled out of contention by the Kings medical staff .
They felt he had not fully recovered from a groin strain.
“Sergeal’s groin is still not 100% after he tweaked it last week,” Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons said.
“We feel it is not worth risking Sergeal because he is an athlete and a wing. If he tears that groin that could not only affect his playing this season but career-wise.
“Sergeal is a young 18-year-old who has a marvellous career ahead of him.” .
The decision not to play Petersen means Siyanda Grey has a chance to play on the wing along with Michael Killian, who has recovered from injury.
Marcello Sampson will sit out the game and Ronnie Cooke, who has been doing duty on the wing for the past few matches, returns to centre in place of Waylon Murray, who was named on the bench.
Besides Watson, the other change in the forwards saw Rynier Bernardo replacing David Bulbring in a rotation move.
Meanwhile, Free State coach Naka Drotske says his team must stay focused for the Kings’ clash.
“We need to stay focused because this competition has shown again and again what happens if you take even just the smallest bit of intensity and concentration out of your game.”
Drotske praised the hard work that had been put in to correct aspects of the Cheetahs’ game during the course of the season.
“We knew it would be tough as we started the season against the Sharks and the Chiefs, last year’s two finalists.
“We lost those two games, but then after that we started winning, and after a while winning just starts to become a habit.”
Drotske added that the team had been “lucky with injuries” this year.
“We don’t have the depth of other teams and that’s what has tripped us up in the past.
“Burton Francis was our fifth-choice flyhalf at the start of the season, but then Johan Goosen and other players got injured and he has done a good job for us.
“We have players coming back from injury in the next few weeks, so that is good.”
Drotske said they had changed their defensive system slightly by not committing too many players to the rucks and were getting numbers to the tackle.
The Southern Kings team is: George Whitehead, Michael Killian, Ronnie Cooke, Andries Strauss (capt), Siyanda Grey, Demetri Catrakilis, Shaun Venter, Schalk Ferreira, Bandise Maku, Kevin Buys, Cornell du Preez, Steven Sykes, Rynier Bernardo, Wimpie vd Walt, Jacques Engelbrecht. Replacements: Virgile Lacombe, Grant Kemp, David Bulbring, Luke Watson, Nicolas Vergallo, Waylon Murray, Siviwe Soyizwapi