There's a lot of work to be done
They may have a number of key players returning to training, but Southern Kings Director of Rugby Alan Solomons said his team has "some way to go" before their Super Rugby debut.
The Kings boss, Solomons, revealed on Monday that new recruits Demetri Catrakilis and Steven Sykes were making "significant" progress on their way back to full recovery.
Solomons said Kings captain Luke Watson has also been making significant strides in his recovery.
However, he stopped short of confirming that they will be unleashed on the Lions in a much-anticipated pre-season friendly at Ellis Park on Saturday.
"We haven't made any decision yet," he told this website, when asked in an interview if they will run out against the Lions.
"Obviously a lot of guys have bumps and bruises and we will make a call later in the week," Solomons said, adding that he could delay the call till as late as the morning of the match.
"There are guys carrying bumps and bruises [from the practice outings in the last fortnight] and some guys may even come back from injury," the Kings mentor told this website.
"We have to see how they track during the practice sessions and it is also a friendly match.
"That is why we would rather wait till the last minute and see what our health is like towards the end of the week and what is best to do."
Solomons revealed that they have so far decided to "rest" their key imports, as most of them were carrying niggles from the demands of 2012 and they need top be in peak condition when the Kings make their Super Rugby debut against the Western Force in Port Elizabeth on February 23.
"Demetri was having a bit of problems with his shoulder, it was a little sore, so what we have done is focus on resting him and doing a bit of rehab with him," Solomons said of the flyhalf they recruited from Western Province.
"We have also been resting and doing rehab work with Steven [Sykes]," he said of the former Sharks lock.
Solomons said they had continued to look after the players and were evaluating their condition.
"Both players have been taking part in sessions, and it is likely that they will take part in the friendlies," he said, adding that a call will be made on Friday or Saturday about this week's game.
Solomons said the Kings captain, Watson, finally took to the training field last week Thursday.
"Luke has resumed full training this week and appears to have made a full recovery and we are hoping to field him in one of the upcoming friendlies," he said.
Solomons said Schalk Ferreira, who sat out the warm up match against the Franchise XV last week, after taking a knock during practice, was doing well.
Siviwe Soyizwapi has strained his back and will be out for two to four weeks.
The Kings boss admitted this week's outing, against the Lions in Johannesburg, will be a significant step from the two practice outings they had against local opposition - 28-12 win over Varsity Cup outfit NMMU and a 29-13 victory over the SWD Franchise XV last week.
"We've had two outings that I call 'match-practices' - one played in four 20-minute quarters and another practice played more under match conditions, of two 40-minute halves.
"However, we've been using a squad of 27 and 28 players.
"Now we have two [pre-season] friendlies [against the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday and then Griquas in Kimberley next Wednesday, February 13] and it will be an opportunity, hopefully, to get as many of our squad members a match.
"The advantage is that it will be proper match-stipulated friendlies.
"The opposition themselves will be a step up and of superior quality."
Asked how far advanced his team was in terms of putting structures in place and preparing for their Super Rugby debut, Solomons said they have made reasonable progress.
"However, we still have a way to go," he told this website.
"There are just under three weeks to go and there's a lot of work to be done.
"We are happy with where we are at this point, but there is still work to be done, no question about that."
By Jan de Koning