ALL eyes will be on the exciting new centre pairing of Waylon Murray and Shane Gates when the Southern Kings face the Sharks in their final Super Rugby match at King’s Park in Durban on Saturday.
With a crucial relegation match against the Lions looming at the end of the month, the Kings are sending a revamped side to Durban as they bid to keep their first-choice players fresh.
It is the centre pairing of former Springbok Murray and the exciting young Gates that will be put under the microscope as they take the place of the regular pairing of Andries Strauss and Ronnie Cooke.
Strauss and Cooke are injured but not seriously enough to rule them out of contention for the relegation playoffs.
“Shane and I have been working hard to keep the other guys prepared in training during the past few weeks so we have spent some time as a combination,” Murray said. “Shane is a very exciting, talented youngster and I am looking forward to partnering him.”
Questions have been raised about the Kings’ attacking abilities during the season and their inability to score tries. So far they have managed to score only 25 tries in 15 outings and it is an area of concern.
“We prepare adequately and we concentrate on our attack. We did not have the territory we would have liked in our last game,” Murray said.
“The more opportunities we get to play with ball in hand, the more people can see how we attack.
“So that is not much of a concern for us because we know we can attack and we have prepared and trained enough.”
Murray said he was looking forward to returning to his old home ground and that the Sharks would provide stiff opposition. “We are looking forward to the test and we are up for the big challenge that will be posed in Durban.”
Another new face in the Kings backline is New Zealander Hadleigh Parkes who has been brought in on the wing and will add extra firepower.
“It is great to see Parkes back in the Super Rugby team after he broke his arm in Wellington against the Hurricanes,” Kings rugby director Alan Solomons said. “He has had two good games for the EP Kings Currie Cup side and is ready for the Sharks.”
Only three players who started against the Stormers have retained their places for the Sharks game.
In the absence of injured Strauss, experienced lock Steven Sykes takes over the captaincy.
After being overlooked for the first 15 games of the campaign, flank Mpho Mbiyozo has also been handed a Super Rugby debut.
The other players who have been selected for their first Super Rugby match are Baby Bok Aidon Davis and Thabo Majomela, who will both start on the bench.
The weekend’s Super Rugby fixtures:
Tomorrow: Crusaders v Hurricanes 9.35am, Rebels v Highlanders11.40am.
Saturday: Blues v Chiefs 9.35am, Waratahs v Reds11.40am, Force v Brumbies 1.45pm, Sharks v Southern Kings 5.05pm, Stormers v Bulls, 7.10pm.