Fresh from their first win in the Absa U21 Provincial Championship this season, the EP Kings team are preparing for a total onslaught from the Golden Lions in their second round encounter in Johannesburg on Saturday (September 5).
The Lions were completely dominant in their earlier clash in Port Elizabeth, putting 73 points past the Kings, but they know they will now face a side bouyed by the victory over the Sharks and fired up to show further improvement in their game.
However, EP Kings coach Ryan Felix said the squad had been hit by injuries this week and acknowledged they would be facing a tough match in Johannesburg.
“We are struggling with injuries at the moment and we know that the Lions will come out with all guns blazing this weekend,” Felix said. “But we are pleased with the better performance against the Sharks and we have set ourselves goals which we would like to achieve against the Lions.
“Ever since the players have returned from the mid-season break, they have been eager to improve on their performances and there is a really good vibe in the camp.”
The Kings know they will be under the whip against the Lions, who will be determined to make up some ground on leading teams Western Province (29 points) and the Blue Bulls (23). The Lions have 22 points, but have a game in hand, so they are still well in contention for a place in the top two.
The Kings, meanwhile, will be looking to move away from the bottom of the log, lying three points behind the Leopards, who have a tough encounter against logleaders WP in Cape Town.
In contrast to Felix, EP U19 coach Mzwandile Stick finds himself in the fortunate position of being able to name an unchanged line-up as the Kings team seek their eighth win in a row.
The Lions, though, will be arguably the team’s toughest challenge of the season. The visitors were well-placed in their first round encounter in PE, leading 19-6 before fading in the second half to go down 28-19, while the Kings will have to face the altitude factor in Johannesburg as well.
However, Stick’s team have built up a wonderful spirit this season and their teamwork has been the hallmark of their success. They have often managed to extricate themselves from tight situations and and they will need all those qualities as the challenges become increasingly tense in the run-in to the playoffs.
The teams are:
EP U19 (15-1): Keanu Vers, Dominik Uytenbogaardt, Yamkela Nyalambisa, Jeremy Ward, Athi Mayinje, Michael Brink, James Hall, Junior Pokomela, Hayden Tharratt, SF Nieuwoudt, Lusanda Badiyana, Robert Lyons, Nicolaas Oosthuizen, Thango Balekile, Xandre Vos.
Replacements (16-23): Masikane Mazwi, Greg Jackson, Kuhle Mokhoabane, Xolisa Matshoba, Wihan Coetzer, Sibusiso Ngcokovane, Garrick Mattheus, Avelo Jubase.
EP U21 (15-1): Malcolm Jaer, Lindelwe Zungu, Somila Jho, Sam Bedlow, Warren Swarts, MC Venter, Franswa Ueckermann, Kevin Kaba (capt), Brandon Brown, CJ Velleman, Tyler Paul, Wynand Grassmann, Thembelihle Yase, JP Jamieson, David Murray.
The latest logs, after seven games, are:
U19: EP 31, Blue Bulls 25, WP 23, Golden Lions 17 (6 games), Leopards and Free State 13, Sharks 6.
U21: WP 29, Blue Bulls 23, Golden Lions 22 (6 games), Free State 21, Sharks 19, Leopards 7, EP Kings 4.
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