Desperate Kings tweak for Cardiff
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENTS: Southern Kings coach Deon Davids has been forced into making some changes to his team, as they look to end their winless run on the road.
The Kings’ sturdy loose forward Andisa Ntsila will start in the No.8 jersey for the side, when they take on the Cardiff Blues, in the last of three Pro14 tour matches on Saturday.
Following the concussion to Ruaan Lerm in last week’s match against defending champions Leinster, the 25-year-old Ntsila will earn his eighth starting berth of the 2018/19 season.
Team doctor Gershwin Kortje confirmed Lerm’s unavailability for the match while confirming that lock, Stephan Greeff – who had also left the field against Leinster with a concussion – was fit for his selection on the bench.
“Ruaan Lerm did not complete the Gradual Return to Play protocol and was deemed unfit, due to the concussion, for selection for this weekend’s game. Stephan Greeff passed his concussion tests and successfully completed his GRTP protocol,” Kortje confirmed.
Ntsila will partner with the hard-tackling duo of Henry Brown and Martinus Burger in the back row.
Captain Jacobus Astle, who was originally selected on the bench last week, but came on early following Greeff’s concussion, will also return to lead the side alongside Dries van Schalkwyk in the second row.
Centre Tertius Kruger also makes a return to the starting XV, in the only backline change that sees Berton Klaasen starting on the bench this week. Kruger will form a familiar midfield pairing with Meli Rokoua.
“We, unfortunately, lost Ruaan Lerm this week as a result of a concussion, but we are fortunate to have a player of Andisa Ntsila’s calibre to call on as a replacement,” Davids said.
“We have also brought in Tertius Kruger this week in a rotational change with Berton Klaasen. Both players have made good contributions this season in their roles, whether starting or coming off the bench. We expect the same intensity, and more, from both of them this week as well.”
The Southern Kings have not yet claimed an away win this season, and would like nothing more than to end off the three-week tour of Ireland and Wales than with a victory over their Welsh opponents.
With the Cardiff Blues having their tails up after a confidence-boosting 19-17 win over Edinburgh away from home last week, the Southern Kings are aware of the tough battle that awaits them this week.
“We have had a tough two matches so far on the tour, and this week against a Cardiff Blues side that is on the back of a good win over Edinburgh will be an equally tough contest,” said Davids.
“They are a quality side that is well-coached. It is no fluke that they sit third on the Conference A log. We have worked very hard this week to counter whatever they may have up their sleeve this weekend. We are hoping to end this tour on a positive note.”
* Meanwhile Jason Harries will make his first start since December for the Blues welcome.
The former Wales Sevens star made his return to action from a foot injury as a replacement in last week’s clash against Edinburgh, crossing for two tries to inspire the Blues to a dramatic comeback against his former side.
The win at Murrayfield saw Wales’ Capital Region leapfrog both Connacht and Ospreys into third place in Conference A and, with five games remaining, the fight for a play-off spot is now in Cardiff Blues’ hands.
Coach John Mulvihill has made a total of five changes for Saturday’s crucial encounter.
With Harries returning to the wing, last week’s man-of-the-match, Aled Summerhill, pulls on the No.15 jersey after impressing when he switched to fullback in Scotland.
The other change in the backs sees Harri Millard return to partner Willis Halaholo in midfield, while Jarrod Evans is once again released from international duty to line-up at outside half.
Brad Thyer and Scott Andrews are re-introduced to the front row to pack down alongside hooker Liam Belcher, who has impressed in recent weeks, while Macauley Cook is given the nod to partner George Earle in the second row.
Mulvihill said: “Winning in Edinburgh was important for us. We knew we had an opportunity to move into the top three and we had to take it, so I’m delighted we managed that.
“Now we have to make sure we stay there, and it starts on Saturday against a dangerous Southern Kings side.
“Destiny is in our own hands and if we get a good win this weekend, we could be five or seven points ahead of one of our rival teams [with Connacht hosting the Ospreys] and we play both of those guys going forward.
“So we need a big performance this weekend to finish this block of matches and take some momentum and confidence into the final run.”
An impressive 16 of the matchday squad have graduated from the Cardiff Blues academy system, including experienced scrum-half, Lloyd Williams, who moves within 10 appearances of his 200th cap for the region.
Tomos Williams and Seb Davies are also released from the Wales squad in order to gain valuable game-time ahead of the final two rounds of Guinness PRO14 action.
The 22-year-old Davies, who has enjoyed a meteoric 18-months, will make his 50th appearance for his home region if he is called to action from the bench.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Aled Summerhill, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Harri Millard, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Jason Harries, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams (captain), 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Macauley Cook, 4 George Earle, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Brad Thyer.
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Seb Davies, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Garyn Smith, 23 Matthew Morgan
Southern Kings: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Meli Rokoua, 12 Tertius Kruger, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Bader Pretorius, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Martinus Burger, 6 Henry Brown, 5 John-Charles Astle (captain), 4 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 3 De-Jay Terblanche, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Alulutho Tshakweni.
Replacements: 16 Alandre Van Rooyen, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Lupumlo Mguca, 19 Stephan Greeff, 20 Stephan De Wit, 21 Rudi Van Rooyen, 22 Berton Klassen, 23 Masixole Banda.
Date: Saturday, March 2
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Kick-off: 19.35 (21.35 SA time; 19.35 GMT)
Referee: Joy Neville (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Mark Patton (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)