Nell takes Kings' reins
Darron Nell will captain the Southern Kings in their promotion/relegation play-off against the Lions at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Friday.
Nell was called up after Andries Strauss broke his left hand during practice on Friday last week.
“Darron has done a tremendous job for us over the years in a leadership role, whenever he has captained a side he has done so successfully, and after giving the matter careful consideration we feel he is the best man to lead the side in this big game,” said Director of Rugby, Alan Solomons.
“Ronnie Cooke will take over the leadership of the backline as vice captain, he has, throughout the season, had a very influential role and has played nearly every single game for us, and we are very fortunate to have someone of that ilk taking leadership of the backs.”
Shane Gates replaces Strauss at inside centre and Solomons expressed confidence in his ability to make an impact in the mdifield.
“Andries was the one player who was not considered because of his broken hand, but it has presented a great opportunity for Shane Gates to come up to the starting XV,” he said.
Solomons said there was a fair amount of consistency in the team that had been selected, with many pairings having played together throughout the season.
The tight five remains relatively unchanged, with Schalk Ferreira, Bandise Maku and Kevin Buys in the front row, while loose trio Wimpie van der Walt, Jacques Engelbrecht and Cornell du Preez will be looking to make a significant impact in play.
“This match is critical to both franchises, because the consequences of these matches are extremely serious. The winner of these two matches remains in Super Rugby and the side that loses is out of Super Rugby,” said Solomons.
Head coach Matt Sexton said there was an air of excitement among the players ahead of the game.
“I think the general feeling we have is excitement, it’s a huge occasion, it’s like a test match or world cup final. The guys are looking forward to the occasion,” he said.
Sexton said he did not want to give too much away about the game plan.
“You take each team on their merits and there are opportunities that will be presented during the match and we just need to capitalise on that,” he said.
“The times where we have been successful on the score board are times where we’ve been very clinical in our approach,” he said.
Southern Kings: 15 SP Marais, 14 Hadleigh Parkes, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Marcello Sampson, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Darron Nell (captain), 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Charl du Plessis, 17 Hannes Franklin, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Devin Oosthuizen, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Waylon Murray.
Date: Friday, July 26
Venue: Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 19.10 (17.10 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha, Sindile Mayende
TMO: Deon van Blommestein