Luke unleashed on Griquas
Southern Kings captain Luke Watson will make a welcome return to the playing field when they take on Griquas in their final pre-season outing on Wednesday.
The 29-year-old Watson, who has been sidelined with an injury since October last year, has only just returned to the training field.
And with the Kings' Super Rugby debut just a fortnight away, Watson's return on Wednesday could not have come at a better time for the Kings.
Their results in the pre-season build-up have not inspired much confidence. They managed unimpressive victories over the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (a 28-12 win) and an SWD Franchise XV (a 29-13 victory), followed by a 41-31 loss to the Lions at the weekend.
But with their skipper and some other key players returning, they will look to iron out the final kinks in the armour.
Watson said his body was feeling "pretty good" after the lengthy lay-off with a shoulder injury.
"It has been a long, hard pre-season with a lot of work," Watson told this website in an interview.
"The body is holding up very well and I am ready for the first game of the season."
He confirmed that he will feature in the matchday squad against Griquas in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.
"I'll be up and running for that one," he said, adding: "I have been on the [training] field for just over two weeks.
"I resumed full training with the team this past week. I am slowly, but surely, getting there and getting the legs running again.
"The fitness seems pretty good, so I am looking forward to playing against Griquas and getting back on the field."
Watson, the Kings' most experienced player with 10 Tests and over 200 first class games, which include 80-odd Super Rugby matches, said it is with "excitement and enthusiasm" that they are looking forward to their first Super Rugby game – against the Western Force in Port Elizabeth on February 23.
"The one word we are throwing around is passionate," he said, when asked about he Kings' emotions ahead of their debut on the SANZAR stage.
"We are very passionate about our upcoming season and within that is excitement.
"Any team in the world that is going into the season is going to have some nerves.
"Some of the greatest Springboks who have played countless Tests, talk about the butterflies they get.
"No matter how far you get, you are always going to be slightly nervous ahead of your next performance, no matter how good you are.
"For us there is a slight bit of nerves and an anxiety, but I would say far more excitement and enthusiasm looking forward to the season."
By Jan de Koning