Long-serving Southern Kings player Darron Nell is back as captain and relishing a return to the loose forward department when his side take on the Cheetahs in a Super Rugby warm-up match at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The Kings would not be involved in the Super Rugby competition this year, having lost to the Lions in a promotion playoff last year. However, they were still determined to give a good account of themselves in the pre-season clash.
Nell, who was utilised mainly at lock in their Super Rugby campaign last year, found himself back at flank, the position he occupied when he turned out for the Cheetahs several years ago.
“They say when you go past 30 you start going backwards, so I am back where I started,” Nell said.
“But I am really looking forward to the challenge and keen to get out there and make a statement.”
He formed part of an experienced pack, which also featured players such as Steven Sykes and Devin Oosthuizen.
Caretaker coach Robbie Kempson said he was sure the Kings would be ready for the challenge.
“There will be a lot of intensity and aggression from us and I have never seen an Eastern Province pack stand back for anyone,” Kempson said.
While the backline was sprinkled with familiar faces such as George Whitehead, Michael Killian and Ronnie Cooke, Nell said they also had many young players in the squad which excited him.
“The young guys in the squad have brought a lot of energy to our training and it’s really good to have them in our ranks,” Nell said.
“It’s always exciting to have some new faces around and our preparations have been really good.”
One young player keen to show his credentials was exciting wing Sergeal Petersen. The 19-year-old made an immediate impact in his Super Rugby debut last year, but then spent much of the season on the sidelines through injury.
Now he was back and the Kings would be looking to his pace on the wing to create pressure for the Cheetahs defence.
No doubt, Kings backline coach Carlos Spencer, the former All Blacks flyhalf, would be providing some insight into how Petersen can improve his attacking potential.
The Southern Kings team is: Siviwe Soyizwapi, Sergeal Petersen, Ronnie Cooke (vice-capt), Dwayne Jenner, Michael Killian, George Whitehead, Jaco Grobler, BG Uys, Dane van der Westhuyzen, Pieter Stemmet, Steven Sykes, Rynier Bernardo, Paul Schoeman, Darron Nell (captain), Devin Oosthuizen. Reserves: Albe de Swardt, Brenden Olivier, Vukile Sofisa, Stephan Zaayman, Stephan Greeff, Themelani Bholi, Claude Tshidbi, Sonwabo Majola, Shane Gates, Ntabeni Dukisa, Brian Skosana.