All places in EP Kings starting lineup up for grabs
HEAD coach Carlos Spencer says no player will be guaranteed a berth in his starting lineup when the EP Kings face Western Province in their opening Currie Cup Premier Division match in August.
That was the message from the former All Black star when he named a revamped Kings lineup to face a Bulls XV in a Super Rugby friendly at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium tomorrow.
"I have told the players that no place is certain and everyone has a chance and opportunity to make the starting lineup come Currie Cup time. So a few guys have an opportunity and they must make the most of that," Spencer said.
Compared to the side that lost 34-12 to Wales last week, the Kings have made several changes to their starting lineup including two positional switches.
The changes include Simon Kerrod who starts at tighthead in place of Charl du Plessis, who is recovering from a neck strain, while Tim Whitehead will make his first appearance for the Kings at outside centre.
"We will take one game at a time and it is important that we give everyone game time in the first two or three games. There are a lot of changes for the Bulls, but it is important that we get a look at everyone in the first few matches," Spencer said.
"This is all about building confidence. We were reasonably happy with the showing against Wales, but we still have a lot of work to do. We have worked hard on the things we need to get right. We will be working on them against the Bulls on Friday night.
"The disappointing thing about the Wales game was the amount of tackles we missed and our ball retention. We turned over ball far too easily, so we have to work on a lot of stuff this week to make sure we get things right."
Spencer said defence coach Michael Horak had spent time working on the Kings' defence after they leaked five tries against Wales.
"We have spent a lot of time on our defence this week, particularly with individuals. I thought our structure was all right against Wales, but we missed something like 25 tackles and it might have even been closer to 30. That is just unacceptable these days.
"So Michael has had a bit of work to do during the week and a few headaches and he enjoys that. So we have worked on our structure but most of it is down to individuals."
Spencer, a former star All Black flyhalf, said his team had created chances against Wales.
"I told the boys at half time our intent was good and that we were looking to play rugby but that they just needed to hold onto the ball.
"The biggest thing in terms of attack is that you can have all the ambition in the world, but if you cannot put phases together it is a waste of time, regardless of what game plan you have. It is all about ball retention.
"If we can look after the ball for nine or 10 phases we are going to make line breaks or get a penalty. We just cannot afford to turn the ball over after three or four phases as we did against Wales.
"The intent was there against Wales and we showed brilliance at times, but we could just not finish off because of a bad pass or we lost the ball in contact. We just cannot afford to do that against the Bulls," Spencer said.
The Bulls XV to face the Kings is: Jacques Rossouw, Kefentse Mahlo, Marquit September, Leighton van Wyk, Jade Stiglingh, Kobus Marais, Carlo Engelbrecht, Ruan Steenkamp (c), Corne Cooper, Chris Massyn, Irne Herbst, Schalk van Heerden, Neethling Fouche, Jan Enslin, Justin Forwood. Replacements: Sidney Tobias, Andrew Beerwinkel, Jason Jenkins, Carel Swart, Andre Warner, Joshua Stander, Ganfried May, Johan Bannink. - George Byron