Experienced lock Darron Nell will captain the Southern Kings in the first of the two-leg Super Rugby promotion-relegation matches against the Lions in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
“Darron has done a tremendous job for us over the years in a leadership role,” Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons said on Tuesday.
“Whenever he has captained a side he has done so successfully, and after giving the matter careful consideration we feel he is the best man to lead the side in this big game.”
Nell stepped into the leadership role after centre Andries Strauss broke his left hand in training on Friday and was ruled out of the double-header against the Lions.
Strauss assumed the captaincy earlier in the season when first-choice captain Luke Watson was sidelined through injury.
Former Sharks lock Steven Sykes, who has also captained the Kings this season, was named on the bench for Friday’s clash.
The second leg of the promotion-relegation matches will be played in Johannesburg on August 2.
Promising young centre Shane Gates stepped up to replace Strauss and will partner vice-captain Ronnie Cooke in the midfield.
New Zealander Hadleigh Parkes, who missed much of the season with a broken arm, will slot in at wing.
“He (Cooke) has, throughout the season, had a very influential role and has played nearly every single game for us, and we are very fortunate to have someone of that ilk taking leadership of the backs,” Solomons said.
Solomons said there was a fair amount of consistency in the team that had been selected, with many pairings having played together during the season.
The pack remained relatively unchanged, with Schalk Ferreira, Bandise Maku and Kevin Buys forming the front row, while the loose trio of Wimpie van der Walt, Jacques Engelbrecht and Cornell du Preez would be looking to make a significant impact.
“This match is critical to both franchises, because the consequences of these matches are extremely serious,” Solomons said.
“The winners of these two matches remains in Super Rugby and the side that loses is out of Super Rugby.”
Southern Kings team: SP Marais, Marcello Sampson, Shane Gates, Ronnie Cooke (captain), Hadleigh Parkes, Demetri Catrakilis, Shaun Venter, Schalk Ferreira, Bandise Maku, Kevin Buys, Cornell du Preez, Darron Nell, David Bulbring, Wimpie van der Walt, Jacques Engelbrecht.
Replacements: Hannes Franklin, Charl du Plessis, Steven Sykes, Devin Oosthuizen, Nicolas Vergallo, Waylon Murray, George Whitehead. – Sapa