THE EP Kings have added valuable experience to both their pack and back divisions for their Currie Cup First Division showdown against the Border Bulldogs in East London on Friday.
Lock Darron Nell returns to action after an ankle injury as captain in what is expected to be a bruising derby encounter as the Kings attempt to gain vital end-of-season momentum.
In other changes, centre Ronnie Cooke will add extra thrust to the back division while the experienced Mpho Mbiyozo will start on the flank and Charl du Plessis will pack down in the front row.
This means there are four new faces in the Kings starting lineup compared to the team that beat the Falcons 30-23 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium last Friday.
In other changes Dwayne Kelly will start at scrumhalf while the versatile Kayle van Zyl moves to the bench for the Kings' final league match before the First Division play-offs. Kings head coach David Maidza said prop Brenden Olivier, who makes way for Lizo Gqoboka, was being loaned out to the EP under-21 team who had a number of injuries following their 87-17 win against the Falcons last week.
Maidza said flank Stefan Willemse was being rested after an injury to his quad, while hooker Hannes Franklin had sustained a cut below the eye that was being treated. Wing Marcello Sampson is recovering from a shoulder injury.
"The plan was to rest individuals along the way since we came back as a group after the Super Rugby and Currie Cup squads combined. We wanted to make sure the guys were fit and raring to go for the Border game," Maidza said.
"It is important for us to start playing really well and to get our ducks in a row. We must put in good performances to take into the play-offs."
He said the Bulldogs would present a stiff challenge because they had been playing good rugby.
"Border have been playing well and have improved immensely in key areas like defence. They are also making fewer errors with ball in hand so it will definitely be a tough encounter for us. If you take into consideration the last game we played against the Falcons we had individuals come to out perform rather than a team. So we were we were not a unit at all in that game and that is one thing we will fix."
The Kings team is:
Scott van Breda, Brian Skosana, Ronnie Cooke, Tiger Mangweni, Michael Killian, George Whitehead, Dwayne Kelly, Lizo Gqoboka, Albe de Swardt, Charl du Plessis, Devin Oosthuizen, Steven Sykes , Darron Nell (capt), Mpho Mbiyozo, Tim Agaba. Replacements: Boetie Britz, Ross Geldenhuys, Wayne van Heerden, Thabo Mamojele, Kayle van Zyl, Ntabeni Dukisa, Wayne Stevens.
The weekend fixtures are: Friday: Boland Cavaliers v Griffons (Wellington, 3pm), Border Bulldogs v EP Kings (East London 3pm), SWD Eagles v Leopards (George) 7pm. Saturday: Falcons v Pumas (Kempton Park 3pm).