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COACH DAVIDS MAKES THREE CHANGES FOR WESTERN FORCE ENCOUNTER

Southern Kings head coach, Deon Davids, has made three changes to his side that will take on Western Force in their sixth match of the Vodacom Super Rugby campaign on Sunday. Kick-off is at 08h05.

Following the hamstring injury to experienced centre, Waylon Murray, who arrived back in Port Elizabeth on Thursday, Davids was forced to make a change to his centre pairing that took on the Emirates Lions in the Southern Kings’ last Vodacom Super Rugby match a fortnight ago.

Luzuko Vulindlu, who was on the bench in the match against the Emirates Lions, will be replacing Murray in the No12 jersey as he partners up with Berton Klaasen in the midfield.

After recovering from a thigh injury that ruled him out of the Southern Kings’ previous fixture, winger Makazole Mapimpi has been included in the starting XV, taking the place of Alshaun Bock at right wing.

The only change in the forwards pack sees Michael Willemse making a return to the starting XV in a rotational selection which sees Kurt Haupt, the starting hooker against the Emirates Lions, not included in the match-23 squad this week.

“After the previous five games, it is important that we build some consistency. We are glad to have Makazole Mapimpi, Luzuko Vulindlu and Michael Willemse back in the group,” coach Davids explained his selections for the encounter with Western Force.

“Mapimpi was a late withdrawal in the previous game with a leg injury. Vulindlu, when he started at No12 against the DHL Stormers, suffered a concussion, while Willemse was a rotation in his position in the previous game. All are well and rested, and ready to go against the Western Force this weekend.”

Davids lamented the loss of Murray through the injury which has ruled him out of the three-week tour of Australia. The centre has been replaced in the squad by Wandile Mjekevu, who has recently recovered from a foot injury and is in line to make his first Vodacom Super Rugby appearance this season.

“Waylon is a very experienced player, who played in all five of our previous games, and done exceptionally well. It is unfortunate that he sustained this hamstring injury,” said the head coach.

“He will be missed on Sunday, but we are fortunate to have the experience of Luzuko Vulindlu slotting in at No12. We have had an extended time now to see him train in the position. We are also happy to have the experience of Wandile Mjekevu coming into the group. I think they will be important for us going forward into the campaign. We are excited to have guys coming from injury like Mjekevu, Stokkies Hanekom and CJ Velleman waiting to make their return.”

The match will be marked by a special milestone for Southern Kings backup hooker, Martin Bezuidenhout, who will be making his 50th Vodacom Super Rugby appearance should he make his way onto the field from the bench.

The 27-year-old, who has previously turned out for the Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers, will provide cover in the hooker position and is one of two potential changes on the bench for Sunday’s clash.

“I’m glad that Martin is getting his opportunity now. He has been knocking on the door for a while, training very well. I wish him all the best for Sunday’s game. I also know that the players will go out there knowing that they want to make it special for him,” Davids said about the milestone.

The coach added that his charges are expecting a tough challenge from a Western Force side that has shown good progress this season.

“The Western Force are playing very good rugby at this point in time. They will have gained a lot of confidence from their last performance against the Blues in Auckland. They also have their captain (Ben McCalman) returning for this game on Sunday. I think they will be a very difficult team to beat,” said Davids.

“We have focused a lot on ourselves – the areas that we need to improve. We are looking forward to this challenge on Sunday.”

Davids is yet to make a final decision on who will provide backline cover on the bench between Mjekevu and Masixole Banda.

The Southern Kings team to face Western Force is:

15. Malcolm Jaer

14. Yaw Penxe

13. Berton Klaasen

12. Luzuko Vulindlu

11. Makazole Mapimpi

10. Lionel Cronje (c)

9. Louis Schreuder

8. Ruaan Lerm (v/c)

7. Andisa Ntsila

6. Chris Cloete

5. Wilhelm van der Sluys

4. Irne Herbst

3. Ross Geldenhuys

2. Michael Willemse

1. Schalk van der Merwe

REPLACEMENTS: 16. Martin Bezuidenhout, 17. Chris Heiberg, 18. Justin Forwood, 19. Mzwanele Zito, 20. Tyler Paul, 21. Rick Schroeder, 22. Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 23. Masixole Banda/Wandile Mjekevu