Luke Watson has recovered from a rib injury to lead the EP Kings in their final warm-up match against the Free State Cheetahs in Cradock on Friday.
Watson, who missed the Kings' 78-32 victory over the SWD Eagles earlier this month, is one of a number of changes made by coach Carlos Spencer as he tries to find his best combinations ahead of their opener against Western Province in Port Elizabeth next Friday. Watson will pack down at No 8, where he will form a dynamic loose trio with Thembelani Bholi and Shaun McDonald, both of whom have impressed in earlier warm-ups.
Former Stade Français hooker Michael van Vuuren will get his first start for the Kings, while loosehead prop Lizo Gqoboka is the only survivor in the pack from the demolition of SWD a couple weeks back.
In the backline, George Whitehead starts as he continues his rotation with Gary van Aswegan, while SA U20 star Sergeal Petersen switches to right wing to accommodate Siviwe 'Shakes' Soyizwapi on the opposite wing. Samoan winger Paul Perez was the only player who was not available for selection because he had injured his knee during practice on Friday.
'We don’t know the extent of the injury as yet, as he has only gone for scans today, but we remain positive and hopefully he will come through the scan OK and it’s just a niggle,' Spencer said.
The Kings have named a 26-man squad for the match in Cradock, with everyone likely to get a run as they finalise their preparations for their first Currie Cup Premier Division campaign in 12 years.
EP Kings – 15 Scott van Breda, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Tobie Botes, 8 Luke Watson (c), 7 Shaun McDonald, 6 Thembelani Bholi, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Michael van Vuuren, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Charl du Plessis, 19 Paul Schoeman, 20 Stefan Willemse, 21 Steven Cummins, 22 Kevin Luiters, 23 Jaco Grobler, 24 Gary van Aswegen, 25 Tim Whitehead, 26 Ntabeni Dukisa, 27 George Byron.
Photo: Richard Huggard/BackpagePix