After two games starting from the bench, loose forward Luke Watson is back to lead the Kings in their Super Rugby match against the Highlanders in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Although Watson’s return was probably hastened by the injury to the powerful Jacques Engelbrecht, the change was on the cards as Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons said: “We are looking to freshen things up”.
Watson will start at flank, with Cornell du Preez moving to No 8.
In other changes, wing Marcello Sampson returns to replace the injured Sergeal Petersen, while David Bulbring will start at lock in a rotation swop with Rynier Bernardo.
The Kings management held off on finalising their front row, after naming the team on Tuesday, with Kevin Buys struggling with a niggling back injury.
“Kevin’s back is worrying him and we will make a final decision on the tighthead prop on Thursday morning,” Solomons said.
“They (Highlanders) have a strong scrummaging pack so we want to see what happens with Kevin before a final decision is made.”
Reflecting on their 72-10 thumping by the Waratahs last weekend, Solomons said it was clear their players were struggling.
“Most of the forwards were playing their eighth and ninth games in a row and we hit the wall a bit there,” Solomons said.
“We needed to freshen up the team a bit and we looked at the way we practised this week and gave some of the guys some time off.
“Luke has come through with some positive play and he’s back to form, so it’s good to have him back.”
Watson said the team remained committed to their cause, as they attempt to avoid a relegation battle at the end of their maiden campaign, and rejected suggestions that self-doubt had crept into their play.
“We knew from the beginning of the season that we would be underdogs for every game and last week Goliath won,” Watson said.
“It was not the performance we wanted, but the commitment of the team has been our strongest attribute and we will be giving a big commitment again on Saturday. The Kings will always give 100 percent.”
Kings: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Marcello Sampson, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Siyanda Grey, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Luke Watson (Captain), 5 David Bulbring, 4 Steven Sykes 3 AN Other, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira
Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 AN Other, 18 Daniel Adongo, 19 Devin Oosthuizen, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 Shane Gates, 22 SP Marais