The Southern Kings have announced a 40-man squad ahead of their Super Rugby debut season, with some experienced players falling by the wayside.
The Eastern Cape franchise will make their Super Rugby entry without stalwarts Tiger Mangweni and Wayne van Heerden who failed to make the cut when the revised squad was announced this week.
The 32-year-old Mangweni was named as the Kings' player of the year in 2012, but Director of Rugby Alan Solomons explained that despite his consistent form last year there are simply too many midfielders in the squad with more experience at Super Rugby level.
He told this website: "Both Wayne and Tiger are experienced guys, and last year Tiger did have a very good season, but we have got in the midfield at the moment a lot of very experienced Super Rugby players.
"We have got Andries Strauss, Waylon Murray and Hadleigh Parkes, all of whom played Super Rugby last year, and then we have got Ronnie Cooke who has been playing Top 14 for a while.
"Tiger is obviously nearing the end of his career and I think there is some strong competition in the midfield," said Solomons.
Van Heerden was also pushed out of contention by some new recruits, with both Steven Sykes and Daniel Adongo joining the Kings late last year, but Solomons expects the experienced lock to add value in the Vodacom Cup side along with Mangweni.
"Last year Darron Nell and David Bulbring played at lock and Wayne benched. Those two are still there and Steven Sykes and Daniel Adongo have since pitched up here, so there is nothing untoward about it as Wayne is also in the latter stages of his career.
"Obviously both of those players will add a lot of experience to that Vodacom Cup squad," he said.
Solomons said that with the conditioning phase of their training schedule now behind them, his revised squad have turned their attention to rugby as they prepare for their entry into Super Rugby.
"We obviously had to top up the conditioning after the break, but the focus is now shifting to the rugby side of things and it has gone positively.
"They were tested when they arrived back on the third of January and we dedicated Friday the fourth to conditioning but this week we have started with the rugby," the Kings boss explained.
With so many new faces in the squad one concern for the Kings could be how quickly those players are able to familiarise themselves with their new side, but Solomons is confident that given the experience of the new recruits they will be able to find their feet very quickly.
"A lot of those players are experienced and I am sure that they will have no problem fitting into the system," he said.
Southern Kings squad: Kevin Buys, Jaco Engels, Schalk Ferreira, Ross Geldenhuys, Lizo Gqoboka, Hannes Franklin, Virgile Lacombe, Bandise Maku, Edgar Marutlulle, Daniel Adongo, Rynier Bernardo, David Bulbring, Darron Nell, Steven Sykes, Cornell du Preez, Jacques Engelbrecht, Tomás Leonardi, Mpho Mbiyozo, Devin Oosthuizen, Wimpie van der Walt, Luke Watson, Johan Herbst, Scott Mathie, Shaun Venter, Nicolás Vergallo, Demetri Catrakilis, Wesley Dunlop, George Whitehead, Ronnie Cooke, Siyanda Grey, Waylon Murray, Hadleigh Parkes, Wayne Stevens, Andries Strauss, Michael Killian, Sergeal Petersen, Marcello Sampson, SP Marais, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Elric van Vuuren.
By Michael de Vries
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