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EP KingsFollowing their narrow 15 / 13 Currie Cup loss to the Steval Pumas in Port Elizabeth at the weekend, the EP Kings have a few more injury concerns.

Centre Tim Whitehead suffered concussion in the game against the Pumas and his availability for this weekend’s home game against the Sharks is in doubt.

He was cleared of symptoms, but will follow a gradual return to play protocol until Thursday. If he comes through that, then he will be cleared to face his former team.

Flyhalf George Whitehead picked up a knee injury and saw a specialist on Monday to determine the severity of the injury.

Flank Jacques Engelbrecht has a left hip pointer injury and is likely to be sidelined for the next 2 weeks, while prop Basil Short has recovered from a foot injury, but a spider bite has kept him sidelined this week.

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ABSA Currie Cup2 Of the tournament’s pace-setters are going head-to-head on Saturday. But it is no ordinary match. It is the BIG north-south derby – the Vodacom Blue Bulls hosting DHL Western Province in the feature match of the weekend, when they meet in Pretoria on Saturday.

They are 2 of only 3 remaining unbeaten sides.

However, before we get there we have 2 Friday games – which will feature 3 teams still seeking their 1st win.

The winless Eastern Province Kings host an ambitious Steval Pumas team in Port Elizabeth, while the central unions partners (and rivals) ORC Griquas and Toyota Free State Cheetahs will meet in Kimberley.

Griquas and Cheetahs are also both still winless.

The Cell C Sharks, fresh from their 1st win of the season, host the high-flying Xerox Golden Lions in Saturday’s early match before we get to the BIG derby at Loftus Versfeld.

The Vodacom Blue Bulls are currently sitting at Top of the standings – as a result of their greater points difference over their Gauteng neighbours, the Xerox Golden Lions – with both on a full-house 10 Log points.

DHL Western Province are 1 Log point further back (9) in 3rd place.

The Cell C Sharks (5 points), Steval Pumas (4), Toyota Free State Cheetahs (1), EP Kings (1) and ORC Griquas (1) trail behind the pace-setters.

We look at all the Round 3 matches!

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Luke Watson

Luke Watson

Luke Watson and Stefan Willemse have been withdrawn from the line-up due to leg injuries, for Friday night’s clash against the Steval Pumas at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.

Unfortunately the pair have not responded to treatment as quickly as the team management had hoped. They have been replaced so as to not risk losing them for the remainder of the Currie Cup campaign.

Cameron Lindsay replaces Stefan Willemse on the bench, while Thembelani Bholi has been moved to the starting line-up in place of Luke Watson, with Paul Schoeman taking his place on the bench.

Steven Sykes will captain the team.

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Vleis Engelbrecht

Vleis Engelbrecht

Loose forward Jacques “Vleis” Engelbrecht has returned to the starting line-up for the Eastern Province Kings’ clash against the Steval Pumas on Friday.

Engelbrecht, who made a name for himself in the Southern Kings’ 2013 Super Rugby season with hard hits and bulldozing runs, replaces flank Stefan Willemse on the side of the scrum.

The 30-year-old has been a welcome return to the EP side (on loan) after he departed for the Bulls at the end of 2013.

Willemse has been included on the bench, but Janse van Rensburg said the flank had a slight niggle, which they believe will clear up for Friday’s game.

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BLK Logo

As the Kings franchise looks forward to a significant period in its history, EP Rugby chief executive Charl Crous has announced a 3-year clothing sponsorship deal with BLK South Africa, beginning in 2016.

The sponsorship will coincide with the Southern Kings’ return to Super Rugby in 2016 and both parties are excited about the journey which lies ahead for rugby in the Eastern Cape region.

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EP KingsEastern Province Kings coach Brent Janse van Rensburg has kept the changes to a minimum as his team prepare for their second Currie Cup game against the Cell C Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

The EP Kings went down 51 / 14 to the Lions in Port Elizabeth on Saturday but Janse van Rensburg said on Tuesday he did not think it would be appropriate to make wholesale changes at this stage.

The only change in the team sees Siyanda Grey, who was on the bench last week, replacing Sylvian Mahuza. Janse van Rensburg has also included prop Lizo Gqoboka on the bench in going for a five-two split.

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EP KingsThe EP Kings have suffered 2 new injuries after their hapless display against the Xerox Golden Lions in their Currie Cup opener on the weekend.

A burst of 4 converted tries in the 1st 16 minutes of the match set the Lions up for a decisive 51 / 14 win over the EP Kings at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in the opening weekend of the tournament.

2 Of the Kings’ cavalry have come away with fresh injuries after the defeat, the team doctor confirmed on Tuesday.

Prop Lizo Gqoboka has a pectoral muscle strain and his time on the sideline is still to be confirmed, while flank Paul Schoeman is setback with a knee injury which is under investigation this week.

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Maks van Dyk

Maks van Dyk

The Eastern Province Kings’ stuttering build-up to the Currie Cup season had another wobble on Tuesday.

Despite the players’ outstanding salaries having been paid last week, prop Nicolaas ‘Maks’ van Dyk has abruptly ended his short stint in Port Elizabeth and headed back to Bloemfontein.

In a statement on Tuesday Eastern Province Rugby Union President Cheeky Watson confirmed the union and Van Dyk have mutually agreed to part ways.

The front row forward has decided to rejoin the Cheetahs ahead of the Currie Cup season.

The player’s departure comes just days before the Kings host the Golden Lions, 1 of the pre-tournament favourites, in the opening Round of the Currie Cup competition in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

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Cheeky Watson

Cheeky Watson

EP Kings rugby players have received their overdue salary payments.

The cash-strapped union was unable to pay its players in recent months, but according to reports, players were finally compensated.

EP Rugby president Cheeky Watson said his players had been paid up to date and were also compensated for any inconveniences.

Watson would not elaborate further but it is thought that the payment includes the double pay packet promised because of the delays in securing a new sponsor.

There is however still no news on the Kings’ new lucrative sponsorship, believed to be in the region of R 200 Million.

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DHL WPDHL Western Province edged the EP Kings 21 / 18 in their  friendly clash at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday night.

In an exciting finish, the Kings, who trailed 14 / 13 at halftime, stormed on to the attack in the closing minutes but the WP defence held firm for the victory as the sides completed their match preparations for the Currie Cup starting on 8 August.

After a try by WP centre and captain Juan de Jongh gave the visitors a 21 / 13 lead in the 55th minute, the Kings gave themselves a chance at victory when left wing Luther Obi shot through a gap to narrow the margin to 3 points with 6 minutes remaining.

In the 1st half the Kings took a 7 / 0 lead after a try by prop Maks van Dyk, converted by fullback Scott van Breda, who also added 2 penalties.

WP hit back with tries by wings Kobus van Wyk and Seabelo Senatla, both converted by flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis.

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Schalk Ferreira

Schalk Ferreira

The Eastern Province Kings have made a late change to their side that will host DHL Western Province at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday (kick-off at 19:00 SA Time).

The union confirmed on Thursday that 31-year-old Schalk Ferreira will start in place of loosehead prop Lizo Gqoboka, who has picked up a knee injury.

Basil Short will take Ferreira’s place on the bench.

Western Province have named a strong side for the pre-Currie Cup friendly that will see the Springbok duo of Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh operate in midfield.

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Cheeky Watson

Cheeky Watson

The EP Kings have expressed their disappointment after former coach Carlos Spencer voiced his dissatisfaction at unpaid wages.

Spencer earlier this week parted ways with the Kings and – through his attorney David Jones – the former All Black has attributed his departure from the Kings to their continued troubles in meeting wage obligations.

The Kings on Thursday insisted that Spencer and his lawyers’ claims were “simply not true”.

“The initial problems we had with Carlos’ salary was due to his insistence of having his funds paid into an offshore account,” EP Rugby President, Cheeky Watson, said via a media statement.

Watson said this resulted in delays that arose out of the administrative compliance and paperwork issues.

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Steven Sykes

Steven Sykes

Lock Steven Sykes will captain the EP Kings when they wind up their match preparations for next month’s Currie Cup campaign with a friendly against Western Province at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.

In a bid to give all his players some exposure in their build-up to the Currie Cup, Kings coach Brent Janse van Rensburg has predictably introduced a theme of rotation after their friendly against the Blue Bulls last weekend.

There is a new front row in Lizo Gqoboka, Martin Ferreira and Maks van Dyk, while Paul Schoeman will start on the side of the scrum following an injury to Thembelani Bohli last week.

At scrumhalf, Enrico Acker, who scored the only try against the Blue Bulls last weekend, will get his first chance to start for the Kings, while centres Marlou van Niekerk and JP du Plessis have an opportunity to prove themselves in midfield.

In the other change to the backline, Sylvian Mahuza returns from injury and will start on the wing, with Siviwe ‘Shakes’ Soyizwapi dropping to the bench.

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Carlos Spencer

Carlos Spencer

Could Auckland rugby icon Carlos Spencer be on the verge of making a dramatic return to the Blues as a skills coach under Tana Umaga?

It might seem a longshot but the door could be open according to Blues boss Michael Redman.

Spencer, among the most gifted footballers in New Zealand rugby history, wants to return to New Zealand from South Africa having quit Super Rugby’s Kings franchise which he says owes him substantial wages.

Redman told the Herald the Blues will decide within days whether to appoint a new skills coach, or make the job contestable. If it is the latter, Spencer – who approached the franchise this year – would “absolutely be an option and we would hope and expect he would apply.”

The 39-year-old Spencer is on the lookout for a new job after parting ways with South Africa’s Eastern Province Kings, the apparently financially troubled franchise which returns to the expanded Super Rugby competition next season.

His shock departure from the Kings, revealed yesterday, has cast a further spotlight on issues facing the expanded Super Rugby competition.

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Carlos Spencer

Carlos Spencer

The Eastern Province Kings and New Zealand born coach, Carlos Spencer, have ended their association with immediate effect.

Spencer, who earned 35 caps for the All Blacks from 1995 to 2004, finished his playing career with the Lions in 2011 and then coached at the Lions and the Sharks, before linking up with the EP Kings in December 2013. He was appointed as the attack and specialist skills coach, and then took charge of the provincial team on their return to the Currie Cup Premier Division in 2014.

In 2015 he resumed his duties as the attack and specialist skills coach following the appointment of Brent Janse van Rensburg as the EP Kings head coach.

EP Rugby president Cheeky Watson paid tribute to Spencer for his contribution to the provincial team during his time with the union.

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Vodacom Blue BullsEP KingsThe Vodacom Blue Bulls defeated the EP Kings 33 / 10 in their friendly rugby match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

After an early penalty by EP Kings fullback Scott van Breda, the Blue Bulls took the lead when No 8 Arno Botha barged over near the posts.

The visitors then struck twice in the final 4 minutes of the 1st half with tries by wing Travis Ismaiel and flyhalf Tian Schoeman, both converted by Schoeman, to lead 21 / 3 at halftime.

After the break, the Bulls scored further tries by centre Dries Swanepoel and flanker Roelof Smit from a lineout maul before EP crossed in the 69th minute when scrumhalf Enrico Acker scored their only try of the match.

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Edward Griffiths

Edward Griffiths

Former SARU chief executive Edward Griffiths is being lined up as the new supremo at the Southern Kings as they prepare for their re-entry into Super Rugby next year.

Kings president, Cheeky Watson, confirmed that the union had discussions with Griffiths who earlier this year left his post as chief executive at Saracens after 7 years in charge.

“We have had discussions with Griffiths, but I cannot say more than that,” Watson said.

Schalk Ferreira

Schalk Ferreira

The Southern Kings continued their recruitment drive ahead of their re-entry into Super Rugby next year.

Veteran prop Schalk Ferreira, who played Super Rugby for the Kings in 2013, is the latest recruit for the Port Elizabeth-based franchise.

He will be returning to PE on a 2-year contract and will join them ahead of the Eastern Province Kings’ Currie Cup campaign that gets underway in August.

The 31-year-old Ferreira – who also played for the DHL Stormers before moving to PE – has been playing for Toulouse in France since 2013.

The have recently also confirmed the signing of centre JP du Plessis and prop Basil Short.

This also follows the announcement of a loan agreement with the Blue Bulls for the services of Jacques “Vleis” Engelbrecht to join the squad for the Currie Cup season, as well as the signing until 2016 of young prop Nicolaas van Dyk.

Du Plessis and Short are already taking part in a training.

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Vleis EngelbrechtLoose forward Jacques “Vleis” Engelbrecht says signing with the Bulls was the biggest mistake of his rugby career.

The 30-year-old was a star for the Kings when they played Super Rugby in 2013 before joining the Bulls later that year.

His career nosedived in Pretoria though, where a lack of game time left him frustrated.

Engelbrecht mainly played Vodacom Cup rugby for the Blue Bulls this year and has been loaned to the EP Kings for this year’s Currie Cup.

Engelbrecht’s contract with the Bulls only expires next year, but he is hoping to impress for the Kings in the Currie Cup in order for them to try sign him for next year’s Super Rugby competition.

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Tony Jantjies

Tony Jantjies

The Eastern Province Kings on Wednesday announced the termination of the contract of flyhalf Tony Jantjies with immediate effect.

In making the announcement on Wednesday, EP Kings chief executive officer Charl Crous said Jantjies’ contract had been terminated due to a breach of team protocol.

The 23-year-old Jantjies joined the EP Kings this year after representing the Blue Bulls from 2012 to 2014.

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Jimmy Stonehouse

Jimmy Stonehouse

Former Steval Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse, 1 of the country’s most undervalued coaches, is rumoured to have thrown his name into the hat for vacant coaching positions at the Cell C Sharks, Vodacom Bulls and Southern Kings.

4 Of South Africa’s franchises will be looking to fill their vacant head coach positions before the start of the revamped and extended Super Rugby tournament in 2016.

Stonehouse took up a coaching job with Japanese club Toshiba Brave Lupus earlier this year after he declined 2 previous offers from abroad with the hope of landing a job with a South African franchise.

The Bulls head coach position opened up over the weekend when Frans Ludeke resigned after 8 years in charge of South Africa’s most successful Super Rugby franchise.

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Brent Janse van Rensburg

Brent Janse van Rensburg

Brent Janse van Rensburg has been appointed as head coach of the EP Kings for the upcoming Currie Cup season.

This follows after an attempt to lure Lions assistant coach Swys de Bruin to Port Elizabeth proved unsuccessful.

Janse van Rensburg, who up until now was the Kings’ defence coach, has been made head coach for the upcoming Currie Cup, while Carlos Spencer – who was head coach in last year’s Currie Cup – will stay on as backline and skills coach.

The Kings performed poorly in last year’s Currie Cup under the guidance of Spencer and there were already rumours then that the former All Black flyhalf would not be retained as head coach.

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Brent Janse van Rensburg

Brent Janse van Rensburg

The EP Kings have lured Brent Janse van Rensburg from the Golden Lions to replace Omar Mouneimne, as defense coach in Port Elizabeth.

Janse van Rensburg, a former NMMU Madibaz head coach, was released from his current contract by the GLRU following personal reasons.

“Brent approached us and asked us if he could be released from his contract for personal reasons, and he wished to return to Nelson Mandela Bay,” said CEO of the Golden Lions, Rudolf Straeuli.

Straeuli said he wished Janse van Rensburg all the best for his future.

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Omar Mouneimne

Omar Mouneimne

Eastern Province Rugby CEO, Charl Crous has confirmed reports that Kings defence coach, Omar Mouneimne, has been approached by French team Lyon OU to possibly assist them on a consultancy basis.

“At this point in time nothing has been confirmed and there is no agreement in place with Lyon. Omar played a valuable role in making the Southern Kings one of the toughest teams defensively in the 2013 Super Rugby competition, and we can already see the positive impact that his return has had on the team,” said Crous.

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Armand du Preez

Armand du Preez

The Stormers have roped in the services of very tall EP Kings lock, Armand du Preez.

Du Preez is the son of former Eastern Province Junior Springbok lock, Armand du Preez.

Du Preez jnr trained with the Stormers at the High Performance Centre in Bellville on Wednesday.

Du Preez snr was regarded as arguably one of the toughest locks of his generation. He played 85 games for EP.

At 2.05m, Armand du Preez jnr is probably the tallest lock in the Cape at the moment.

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Omar Mouneimne

Omar Mouneimne

The Kings defence coach for their inaugural Super Rugby campaign in 2013, Omar Mouneimne, has returned to Port Elizabeth from Edinburgh in preparation for their 2016 season and beyond.

Mouneimne played a crucial role in making the Southern Kings one of the toughest teams defensively in the 2013 competition and has once again taken up the role of defence coach.

He has already begun training with the 2015 Vodacom Cup squad alongside Vodacom Cup head coach, Mzwandile Stick.

“It is wonderful to be back and to be part of the preparations for the Kings’ return to Super Rugby,” he said.

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Tony Jantjies

Tony Jantjies

Eastern Province Rugby has confirmed the signing of Blue Bulls flyhalf Tony Jantjies, ahead of the 2015 season.

“We are extremely excited to have signed Tony, whose family hails from the Graaff Reinet area, falling in line with our goal to bring talented players from this region back to the Eastern Cape,” said EP Rugby president, Cheeky Watson.

Watson said he was positive that Jantjies would be a great addition to the Kings family when he joined the team in January next year.

“I have spoken to Carlos Spencer, who worked closely with Tony’s brother Elton, and he is very keen to begin working with Tony,” he said.

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Michael Horak

Michael Horak

The Sharks have gained the services of departing Kings defence coach Michael Horak who terminated his contract in Port Elizabeth

“Michael Horak was released from his contract, and has taken up the position as defensive coach at the Sharks,” Eastern Province CEO, Charl Crous confirmed.

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Paul Perez

Paul Perez

Eastern Province Rugby have confirmed that they have terminated Samoan wing Paul Perez’s contract with immediate effect.

Perez, who was seen as playing an integral role in the EP Kings plans for the 2015 season, disappeared for two days this week, without justification or permission, and remained uncontactable for the duration of his absence.

EP Rugby president, Cheeky Watson, confirmed that the union had been in the process of applying for Perez’s work permit, and had been obligated to contact the Department of Home Affairs due to concerns raised by his absenteeism.

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EP KingsThe Eastern Province Kings have announced their pre-season training squad following their return to training after a lackluster 2014 Currie Cup campaign.

They have managed to retain a number of their current senior players, as well as seeing numerous younger players making the step-up from the junior competitions.

EP Rugby CEO, Charl Crous, said he was positive about the season ahead.

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Currie CupDHL Western Province will host the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Cape Town and the Xerox Golden Lions will face the Cell C Sharks in Johannesburg in the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division semifinals next weekend.

Log-leaders DHL Western Province were assured of their home semifinal and the top spot on the log before entering the final round of pool matches this weekend, while the Xerox Golden Lions sealed their home semifinal by thumping the Toyota Free State Cheetahs. The victory for the Johannesburg team was enough to cancel out any efforts by the Cell C Sharks for the second spot on the log.

In the weekend’s matches, the EP Kings registered their first victory of the season as they pipped the Steval Pumas 26-25 in Port Elizabeth, while the Xerox Golden Lions thumped the Toyota Free State Cheetahs 47-7 at Ellis Park, the Cell C Sharks defeated DHL Western Province 28-20 in Cape Town and the Vodacom Blue Bulls beat GWK Griquas 46-12 in Pretoria.

The Xerox Golden Lions will meet the Cell C Sharks in the first semifinal on Saturday, October 18, at 14:30 SA Time and DHL Western Province will go up against the Vodacom Blue Bulls at 17:00 SA Time.

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Steval PumasEP KingsAfter 9 straight defeats, the EP Kings are desperate to end their return to the Currie Cup premier rugby division on a high when they host the Pumas in their final clash at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

It has been a sobering experience for the Kings players, who have been competitive at times but have not managed to produce the sort of consistency throughout the 80 minutes needed to match, much less beat, the big guns.

Now they face another team who have had lean pickings lately, but they know the Pumas, still with an outside chance of making the semis, will produce a massive onslaught to try to stay in the running.

Kings forwards coach Shaun Sowerby said it was essential for the Kings to put together a complete performance for the entire match to have any chance of winning.

“At times we have been good this season but we need a consistent effort throughout the match to pull off a victory,” Sowerby said.

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SuperBruExciting times ahead with only one more weekend of Rugby Championship matches to go.

Dead rubber or not, it’s the Springboks versus the All Blacks, so it will still be a cracker of a match, with Heyneke looking for that elusive first win over the men in black as coach of the Boks.

The Currie Cup is nearing the end of the regular rounds, and it’s only DHL WP and the Golden Lions that can feel certain that they will make the Top 4.

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