By George Byron — Originally published in The Herald
Rugby fans are being asked to pray for the EP Kings ahead of their make-or-break Currie Cup promotion match against the Cheetahs in Port Elizabeth on Friday (October 26).
The appeal was made by EP Kings rugby boss Anele Pamba as his team bid to pull off rugby’s “fightback of the century” at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
After slumping to a 53-14 first-leg defeat in Bloemfontein, the Kings will have their backs to the wall in the second leg.
“Our team are very religious and always pray together before and after matches,” Pamba said.
“Now I would like the community to join us and also offer up prayers for the team. Everyone must pray.”
Religion is clearly vital to the team because in a weekly press statement to the media it says this week that star centre Wayne Stevens will arrange a bible study session for the Kings at noon tomorrow.
EP’s chief executive said because the team were so religious, they did not have problems of bad discipline as was the case at some unions.
“Every day at 8am, our president Cheeky Watson leads all the administrative staff in a prayer meeting at our headquarters at the Imatu Building next to the stadium.
“Members of staff are also encouraged to lead the meeting and we pray for many things,” Pamba said.
“I was in the dressing room before our first-leg match against the Cheetahs and the team prayed as a group before and after the match at the Free State Stadium.”
More than 22 000 fans watched the Kings beat the Pumas in the First Division final and another big crowd is expected on Friday to see whether the Kings can pull off what would be a minor rugby miracle.
“We want the stadium to be full of fans dressed in red. The support of the crowd is vital as we bid to stage rugby’s fightback of the century,” Pamba said. Kings coach Alan Solomons said his team had to deliver a five-star showing for fans on Friday.
“In the second leg, we must stand up and show character. We know what to expect from the Cheetahs,” he said.
With the log point system being used to separate the two sides in the double-header playoffs, the Cheetahs earned five points and the Kings none in Bloemfontein.
This means the Kings must win with a four-try bonus point and deny the Cheetahs one in the return fixture before they can think of the 39-point deficit they need to overhaul to gain promotion. THE EP Kings will deploy a revamped backline when they take on the Cheetahs in Friday’s secondleg “Battle of the Bay” Currie Cup promotion rugby match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Compared to the side that slumped to a heavy 53-14 defeat in the first leg in Bloemfontein, there are no fewer than eight changes to the starting lineup because of injury, fatigue and tactical reasons.
Burly lock Darron Nell returns as captain, but his place in the side is subject to a fitness test on an injured calf muscle later in the week.
“Darron returns but he has got to be 100% fit. We are not going into the game with a player carrying an injury, so we are giving Darron, as captain, an opportunity to recover. We are hoping to get more clarity on his injury in the course of the week,” EP’s director of rugby Alan Solomons said.
Flyhalf George Whitehead is being given a start ahead of Wesley Dunlop, who was named among the replacements. A new face in the backline is EP under-21 star and former Dale College pupil Siviwe Soyizwape who comes in at wing in the place of Michael Killian, who moves to fullback.
In other changes, centre Tiger Mangweni, who missed the Bloemfontein clash because of fatigue, returns to the team in the place of Shane Gates, while speedy Norman Nelson comes in on the wing in the place of Paul Perez, who moves to centre.
A notable absentee in the forwards is Cornell du Preez who was not considered for the return leg because of fatigue.
“Fullback SP Marais was not considered because he has re-injured his hip. In midfield, centre Wayne Stevens is in a similar position and he is out after taking a blow to the head and injuring his knee in Bloemfontein where he captained the side.
“This means that Perez moves to the midfield at centre and Nelson takes his place on the wing,” Solomons said.
In another change, Devin Oosthuizen moves to No 8 and Boetie Britz moves into Oosthuizen’s place on the flank.