The Southern Kings have named their Super Rugby team to play the Cheetahs in Port Elizabeth this weekend with vice-captain Andries Strauss returning from injury.
The experienced centre, who has played for the Sharks and the Cheetahs, left the field during the Highlanders game on May 11 with a shoulder injury, but the two-week break after the Kings’ bye weekend has allowed the player to return to full fitness.
“Andries has come through sessions yesterday and today, which was a much more challenging one,” said Southern Kings coach Alan Solomons.
“He is in perfect nick and ready to take his place in the team.”
After their 34-27 win over the Highlanders, the Kings have retained a sense of continuity by making only one change to the team as they seek their first Super Rugby win over a South African franchise.
Fullback SP Marais has fully recovered from injury and takes his place in the last line of defence in place of George Whitehead, who drops to the bench.
“George has done an excellent job for us, but it’s also good to have SP back in the line-up,” Solomons said.
Flank Jacques Engelbrecht is over an ankle injury and replaces Devin Oosthuizen on the bench, while another substitute change sees lock Rynier Bernardo in place of Daniel Adongo.
Skipper Luke Watson was unable to attend Tuesday’s news conference, but Solomons said it was just a precaution because of a “head cold”.
“He has been advised to rest for a day or two and will be back by Thursday,” Solomons said.
While the Kings have registered wins over Australian and New Zealand opposition, they have not managed to break their duck against the SA franchises.
Solomons acknowledged that the Cheetahs were one of the on form sides in the competition, but said they were looking forward to a tough match on Saturday.
“This will really be a fantastic challenge for us and a real opportunity, although we know how well the Cheetahs are doing, being second in the SA conference and seventh overall,” Solomons said.
The Kings, whose remaining matches are all against SA teams, are desperately trying to avoid ending last in the SA conference to avert a promotion-relegation playoff match against the Lions.
SP Marais, Marcello Sampson, Ronnie Cooke, Andries Strauss (vice-captain), Siyanda Grey, Demetri Catrakilis, Shaun Venter, Schalk Ferreira, Bandise Maku, Kevin Buys, Wimpie van der Walt, Steven Sykes, David Bulbring, Luke Watson (captain), Cornell du Preez.
Replacements: Virgile Lacombe, Grant Kemp, Rynier Bernardo, Jacques Engelbrecht, Nicolas Vergallo, Shane Gates, George Whitehead.