Preview: EP Kings v Golden Lions

Date published: August 7 2015

The Eastern Province Kings face 2015's runners-up, the Golden Lions, in their season opener in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

Kings head coach Brent Janse van Rensburg is one of six new coaches in this season's competition and faces a baptism of fire in his first match in charge of the Port Elizabeth-based side, as he goes head-to-head with Lions boss Johan Ackermann who won Saru's 2014 Coach of the Year award.

The Kings finished at the bottom of the league table in 2014, after winning just one of their ten matches, and their preparations for this season have not gone smoothly as well.

Despite reports of the Kings management being unable to pay its players' salaries in recent months and the highly publicised departure of ex-All Black fly-half Carlos Spencer – after a spell on their coaching staff – the men from Port Elizabeth's morale is still high.

They delivered competitive performances in pre-season friendlies against the Blue Bulls and Western Province although they lost both matches against their more fancied opponents.

The Lions and WP were well ahead of the chasing pack in 2014 but the Ackermann expects a tighter battle for honours in this year's competition and he is not underestimating the Kings.

"It will always be difficult to say at the beginning of a season you want to perform the same as last year because every team will have the same hunger and goal of playing in the final," he said.

"That is what makes the Currie Cup so unique, you don't know on the day which team will win because the teams are so close."

The Lions boast several players with Super Rugby experience and they received a shot in the arm when exciting lock Franco Mostert was released from the Springbok training camp to play in this match.

Prediction: Although they're playing away from home, the Lions will have little trouble in seeing off their hosts. Golden Lions to win by 15 points!

The teams:

Eastern Province Kings: EP Kings: 15 Scott van Breda, 14 Sylvain Mahuza, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Luther Obi, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Enrico Acker, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Luke Watson (c), 5 Cornel Hess, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Schalk Ferreira
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Simon Kerrod, 18 Jacques Engelbrecht, 19 Paul Schoeman, 20 Kevin Luiters, 21 Karlo Aspeling, 22 Siyanda Grey

Golden Lions: 15 Ruan Combrinck, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Harold Vorster, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (c), 5 Martin Muller, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 MB Lusaseni, 19 Steph de Wit, 20 Lohan Jacobs, 21 Stokkies Hanekom, 22 Jaco van der Walt.

Date: Saturday, August 8
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 14:15 local (12:15 GMT)
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant Referees: Jason Jaftha, Francois Pretorius
TMO: Marius Jonker