Port Elizabeth based Super Rugby franchise the Southern Kings have named their team to play the Sharks in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Sykes will start the match in the second row with JC Astle who like Sykes is a former Sharks player.
The rest of the tight five is made up by Tom Botha, Martin Ferreira and Schalk Ferreira while Chris Cloete, Thembelani Bholi and Jacques Engelbrecht are the loosie trio.
Elgar Watts starts at flyhalf with Ntando Kebe at scrumhalf. Shane Gates and JP du Plessis make up the midfield while Malcolm Jaer, Luzuko Vulindlu and former Bulls back Jurgen Visser are the back three.
Head Coach Deon Davids said he was looking forward to playing the first game of the season at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better draw, to start playing at home,” he said.
“We know that Port Elizabeth is the friendly city, they always support games well, they love their sport and their rugby and we are going to need that,” said Davids.
“I can assure you that the players wearing the jersey will do their utmost best,” he said.
Captain Sykes said supporters could expect something special from the team.
“I think the guys have a bigger, never say die attitude. The guys want to play, we want to show everyone that we are here to play rugby and here to play as a team,” he said.
Prop Louis Albertse who joined the Southern Kings last week on trial has secured a spot on the Southern Kings bench.
The 25-year-old Albertse was selected to come onto the bench after the late withdrawal of Jacobie Adriaanse from the starting line-up meant the Kings had not yet finalised the bench for Saturday’s game.
Head Coach Deon Davids said they had moved Tom Botha up from the bench to start, but were still evaluating two props who had joined the Kings last week.
“We had a late withdrawal of as a result of concussion, but we have two props who are training with us since last week, Louis Albertse and Liam Hendricks, who we will evaluate,” said Davids.
Albertse, at 1,81m tall and weighing in at 102kg, was born in Ermelo and represented KwaZulu Natal in the U18 Academy Week in 2007 and then representing them again the following year in the U18 Craven Week team.
He moved to the Lions after school, representing them in the U19 competition in 2009 and the U21 competition in 2010 and 2011.
In 2012 he moved to the Blue Bulls, where he made his senior debut in the Vodacom Cup. He remained at the Bulls until joining the French Pro D2 team, Provence, for the 2015/16 season.
“We are excited to go. The players have worked really hard and we have tried to tick most of the boxes in preparation for this game and are looking forward to this challenge and being able to play Super Rugby.
“We have huge respect for the Sharks. If you look at the players involved in their warm up matches, they have a good balanced squad, a mixture of experienced players with one or two youngsters coming through.
“They have a good pack of forwards and an exciting back line. The sharks are a team that wants to dominate opposition with go forward ball from set pieces. It will be a challenge for us, and we will have to ensure that we are defensively organised,” he said.
Davids said he was not concerned about the tempo of Super Rugby.
“I am not concerned. We have talked about the intensity and what we can expect. We have tried to simulate that in our training sessions and have trained at a very high intensity.
“It is a case of how well we have done things we could have done up to now,” he said.
15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Shane Gates (vc), 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Ntando Kebe, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 John Charles (JC) Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Tom Botha, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements : 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Louis Alberts, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 Cyril-John Velleman, 21 Leighton Eksteen, 22 Louis Fouché, 23 Charles Radebe.