STAND-IN EP Kings rugby captain Darron Nell wants his team to win Saturday's Absa Currie Cup First Division final against the Pumas – to pay tribute to regular skipper Luke Watson who was cruelly sidelined by a fractured left foot in Friday's semifinal.
"We all feel for Luke because he is a mate and close friend and he has had some bad luck," said Nell who was yesterday named to take over as captain for Saturday's crunch final at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (kick-off 2.30pm).
"Luke's injury will serve as a motivation for the team. The boys want to go out and do it for Luke on Saturday," an emotional Nell said.
Watson was forced to limp off the field in agony on Friday during his team's 50-27 semifinal win over the Leopards.
The versatile Cornell du Preez now moves to Watson's No 8 berth while Devin Oosthuizen will pack down on the flank in the final and provide the Kings with a substantial lineout option.
In another change, New Zealander Clint Newland returns at tighthead prop after being rested against the Leopards as a precautionary measure.
"Not having Luke in the side is a big blow because he is a good leader, player and also very experienced," EP's director of rugby, Alan Solomons said.
"It is easy to see the impact Luke has had on the team this season. But we have said from the beginning that we are going to be successful by being a squad.
"Our rotation policy has worked along those lines and injuries are bound to happen. We are a good enough team to cope with this big loss even when it is somebody like Luke.
"We are fortunate to have guys like Darron [Nell] to take over as captain and Tiger [Mangweni] as vice-captain. The team are very well served in the leadership roles," Solomons said.
Solomons said Saturday promised to be a special occasion, because apart from hosting the First Division final, EP would also be hosting the under-19 and u-21 B division finals.
"I don't know if EP has ever hosted three cup finals on one day. It is a marvellous achievement by everyone involved and Saturday promises to be a wonderful occasion."
Solomons said playing at home gave his team an important advantage in the final.
"Home-ground advantage is a big thing because you do not have to travel, you play in familiar surroundings and you sleep in your own bed. All those things help and then there is the factor of the home crowd.
"As our head coach Matt Sexton has said before, the crowd are the 16th man and important for the team," Solomons said.
In an effort to boost Saturday's attendance, organisers announced yesterday that the first 3500 people who buy a ticket from Computicket will get one free.
Saturday's programme is:
10am u-19 B Division final: EP v Border Bulldogs; noon: u-21 B Division final: EP v SWD Eagles. 2:30pm: First Division final: EP Kings v Pumas.
The EP team is:
SP Marais, Marcello Sampson, Wayne Stevens, Tiger Mangweni (vice-captain), Paul Perez, George Whitehead, Falie Oelschig, Schalk Ferreira, Hannes Franklin, Clint Newland, Devin Oosthuizen, Darron Nell (capt), David Bulbring, Wimpie van der Walt, Cornell du Preez.
Replacements: Frank Herne, Andre Schlecter, Wayne van Heerden, Mpho Mbiyozo, Scott Mathie, Wesley Dunlop, Siyanda Grey.