The EP Kings U19 team will be aiming to round off the first round of the Absa U19 provincial competition in style by keeping their unbeaten record when they clash with the Sharks in Durban on Saturday (August 15).
As they reach the halfway stage of the competition, the Kings are sitting happily at the top of the log but it’s not a position they will be taking for granted. Having strung together a string of impressive results, Jeremy Ward’s EP side know that their rivals will be gunning for them in the second half.
Before then they must handle the Sharks challenge in Durban this weekend and even though the home side have battled this season – their best result in four matches is a 17-17 draw with the Cheetahs – the Kings will not want to make the mistake of taking anything for granted.
Their performance last week will have them in a positive frame of mind as they had to come from behind to defeat the Lions 28-19. A series of errors saw the Lions forge a 19-6 lead before the Kings confirmed their fighting qualities in a recovery which saw them score 22 points without reply.
While several players such as Ward, flyhalf Michael Brink, who moves to fullback this weekend, and Junior Pokomela have stood out, it’s the teamwork the team have displayed which has kept them among the frontrunners.
As coach Mzwandile Stick said before the Lions game: “They boys are playing for each other and that is making a big difference to this team.”
Without any individual stars, coaches Stick and Wayne van Heerden, as well as manager Robbi Kempson, have moulded a bunch of young players into a side who have developed a self-belief which has helped them through the testing moments.
But they know the Sharks will come out firing on Saturday and that there will be no easy path to victory in Durban. If they do stay unbeaten, they will be able to take a good deal of satisfaction into their mid-season break.
The EP U21 team will be looking to pick up the pieces after being routed by the Lions last weekend. The Kings’ defensive work was just not up to standard and no doubt coach Ryan Felix will have worked hard on that aspect this week.
The players also received some expert tuition from former Bok prop Balie Swart this week and if they can show some sort of stability up front, it could translate into better fortunes allround.
The side welcomes back captain Kevin Kaba this weekend and his influence could be crucial to improving their standing in the competition.
The Sharks have lost two of their four matches so it has not been an easy season for them either, but the Kings outfit will have to show they have the character to fight back from adversity if they are to have any chance of victory.
EP U19 (15-1): Michael Brink, Athi Mayinje, Yamkela Nyalambisa, Jeremy Ward, Dominik Uytenbogaardt, Jordan Koekemoer, James Hall, Junior Pokomela, Hayden Tharratt, SF Nieuwoudt, Lusanda Badiyana, Robert Lyons, Nicolaas Oosthuizen, Thango Balekile, Matthew Howes.
Replacements (16-23): Masikane Mazwi, Xandre Vos, Michael van Breda, Wihan Coetzer, Jason Lizamore, Davron Cameron, Rivan Lemmer, Avelo Jubase.
EP U21 (15-1): Warren Swarts, Lindelwe Zungu, Somila Jho, Riaan Esterhuizen, Khaya Malotana, Malcolm Jaer, Sibusiso Ngcokvane, Kevin Kaba, Tyler Paul, Henry Brown, Jan Uys, Gerrit Huisamen, Thembelihle Yase, JP Jamieson, David Murray.
Replacements (16-22): Jedwyn Harty, James Beyl, Jason Reinecke, Wynand Grasman, Luvo Claasen, MC Venter, Mihlali Nchukana.