Port Elizabeth - The Southern Kings have announced a new captain who will lead the team for the first time in the PRO14 when they host Welsh club Scarlets at the Nelson Mandela University’s Madibaz Stadium on Friday (October 26).
Influential lock JC Astle has taken over the leadership reins from hooker Michael Willemse, who has become one of the Southern Kings’ most recent injury casualties.
“We have unfortunately lost Michael Willemse to injury for the foreseeable future, and that is a big loss for us. Mikey has been a great leader for the side and we are most grateful for the leadership he has provided this season and the previous season,” said Southern Kings Head Coach, Deon Davids, on Monday.
“JC Astle will captain the team going forward. We have full confidence in JC’s leadership and the qualities he brings in the role. He has been one of the leaders in the team and will continue to be surrounded by a number of other leaders in the team. He has the full backing of the squad, and we are confident he will lead the team well, starting from this coming Friday’s match against Scarlets.”
The 28-year-old Queenstown-born Astle returned to the Southern Kings ahead of the start of the 2018/19 PRO14 season from French Pro D2 Mont-de-Marsan. The bearded second-rower had previously been with the Port Elizabeth-based side in the 2016 Super Rugby season.
Astle indicated that he was honoured to have been bestowed the responsibility of leading the team.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to captain this special team and group of players,” he said.
“I am in a fortunate position as Mikey Willemse has set a good foundation for the leadership that our team requires. Furthermore, I have a management team and great group of leaders within the team who will make my job a whole lot easier.”
Willemse has been ruled out of action for up to three months with a shoulder injury.
“Michael Willemse has a nerve root impingement down the shoulder,” team doctor Gershwin Nortje confirmed.
“He will unfortunately be out of action between two to three months.”
The rest of the Southern Kings injury list sees lock Bobby de Wee out of action for six months following a shoulder injury sustained in the previous match against Benetton in Italy a fortnight ago.
Loose-forward Henry “Bakkies” Brown has been ruled out for between seven to eight weeks with an ankle injury. He is being managed conservatively by the medical team and is consulting an ankle specialist on a weekly basis.
Prop Xandre Vos, who sustained a C2-disc inflammation (neck) has also been ruled out for two months.
Prop Schalk Ferreira (nose), loose-forward CJ Velleman (shoulder) and scrumhalf Rudi van Rooyen (ankle) have made good recoveries from their various injuries and are training with the team this week.
Sarel Pretorius (foot), Pieter Scholtz (shoulder), Oliver Zono (knee) and Sibusiso Sithole (shoulder) are making good progress in their rehabilitation. Martin Dreyer (knee) remains on the long-term injury list as he is out for nine months.
Astle will lead a Southern Kings team against the Scarlets that will play in pink socks in support of cancer awareness.
Kick-off is at 19:00 on Friday.