The Southern Kings will arrive in East London on Friday for a high-profile friendly match against the Border Bulldogs ahead of the start of the 2017 Vodacom Super Rugby campaign.
The Port Elizabeth-based Kings will be bringing their full squad for Saturday’s showdown at the Buffalo City Stadium against their provincial rivals.
Head coach Deon Davids will use the first warm-up game to further assess his charges and try new combinations ahead of what should be a gruelling Super Rugby campaign.
Next week Wednesday, the Kings will welcome the South Western Districts (SWD) Eagles in another warm-up game.
The Bulldogs are expected to give the Kings a run for their money, if last season’s performance in the Currie Cup is anything to go by. The Bulldogs lost in the semis of the Currie Cup after putting in some impressive displays against more fancied sides like the Lions.
Kings spokesman Chumani Bambani said a tussle with the Bulldogs was just what they needed.
“They will give us the competitiveness we need ahead of the Super Rugby. This will be a very important game because it is the first game that the coach will get to see his plans come to fruition,” he said.
We will be bringing the entire squad to East London, even the injured players. We are building a team culture,” he said.
New recruit Louis Schreuder, who was signed last week in a move to bolster the squad is expected to be given a run at scrumhalf. The experienced former DHL Stormers number nine was brought in as a replacement for James Hall, who might not return from French side, Oyonnax.
The way that the Kings will play against the Bulldogs will more or less be an indication of how they will fare in the Super Rugby this season.
They lock horns with the Jaguares on February 25 in their first Super Rugby clash at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Bulldogs interim head coach, David Dobela, said even though their players were normally still in off-season mode around this time, they will give as good as they got.
He will use the game to also try out new combinations after last season’s key players lock, Wandile Putuma, fullback Masixole Banda, wing Makazole Mapimpi, Onke Dubase and Ntabeni Dukisa were lost to the Kings.
New Bulldogs recruits like Thabiso Mngomezulu, Swallows pair, tighthead-prop Luzuko Nyabaza and flank Abongile Nalo, utility back Lelethu Gcilitshane and talented fullback, Nathan Church, are likely be given a run against the Kings.
“We’ll be very much competitive. I don’t even have to motivate the team because the players are already motivated to be playing against a Super Rugby team,” said Dobela.
“They will be wanting to show that they can also play at that level.”
Bambani said the team was raring to go and promised that they will not just add to the numbers and compete in Super Rugby.
“This season the team has had time to train together and getting proper pre-season going. This season we had enough time of getting the players conditioned properly,” he said.
“If you compare the team to last season, it is at a better stage in terms of fitness levels.”
The spokesman urged rugby fans to fill up the stadium. “Please come and see what this team can do.”
Before the 5.15pm kick-off against the Bulldogs, the Kings will have a coaching clinic between 11am and noon on Saturday at Hamilton Rugby Club.