The EP Kings have lost wing Marcello Sampson to a groin injury ahead of their Currie Cup promotion-relegation clash against the Free State Cheetahs on Friday.
The speedster hurt himself during the captain’s run and will be replaced by wing Michael Killian. Norman Nelson provides cover on the bench for the match in Bloemfontein.
Sampson joins captain Luke Watson, lock Darron Nell, prop Schalk Ferreira and utility back Tiger Mangweni on the Kings’ injury list.
EP will face a weakened Free State Cheetahs team, who are without 13 first-choice players (including Springboks Coenie Oosthuizen, Heinrich Brussow and Johan Goosen). However, director of rugby Alan Solomons stressed that the hosts will still be favourites.
‘Participation in the Premier Division is crucial for us,’ Solomons told keo.co.za. ‘We are competing in the Super Rugby next year, so to play in the top domestic competition will increase the growth of our team and our junior players.
‘However, it’s going to be a tough challenge to achieve that against Free State. Normally you play one of the smaller unions in the promotion-relegation play-offs, but we have to beat one of the top five unions in the country.
‘As a top union and a Super Rugby franchise, the Cheetahs have the depth to replace those injured players. As a First Division union, we don’t have the same kind of depth. But our junior players have stepped up; lock Reynier Bernardo and inside centre Shane Gates are both still U21 and are from our academy.’
Cheetahs – 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschange, 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Izak van der Merwe, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Marcel van der Merwe
Subs: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Davon Ruabenheimer, 20 Tewis du Bruyn, 21 Phillip Snyman, 22 Rayno Benjamin.
EP Kings (revised) – 15 SP Marais, 14 Paul Perez, 13 Wayne Stevens (c), 12 Shane Gates, 11 Michael Killian 10 Wesley Dunlop, 9 Falie Oelschig, 8 Cornell Du Preez, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Devin Oosthuizen, 5 David Bullbring, 4 Reynier Bernardo, 3 Clint Newland, 2 Hannes Franklin, 1 Jaco Engels.
Subs: 16 Frank Herne, 17 Andre Schlechter, 18 Wayne van Heerden, 19 Mpho Mbiyozo, 20 Scott Mathie, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Norman Nelson.
By Gareth Duncan