Kings add speed for 'young' Ulster
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENTS: Ulster and the Southern Kings are taking very different approaches to their Pro14 encounter at Kingspan Stadium on Friday.
The winless Kings are relying on the return of some of their fastest men to end the drought, while Ulster has named some of their young talents for the Round 14 outing.
Speedsters Masixole Banda and Anthonie Volmink will join former Junior Springbok flyer Yaw Penxe in an exciting back three combination for the Kings.
Kings interim-coach Barend Pieterse called upon the duo after they recovered from niggles and moved Penxe from left wing to right wing for the clash.
Pieterse, standing in for coach Deon Davids who could not make the trip due to 'health' reasons, also swapped outside centre Harlon Klaasen for Burton Klaasen in the other change at the back - while keeping faith in the same pack that stood up well against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein two weeks ago.
Harlon Klaasen has been moved to the bench, where the likes of Jurie van Vuuren and Godlen Masimla will also see some action after being included in place of Lindokuhle Welemu and Rudi van Rooyen.
Alan O'Connor, a graduate of the Ulster Academy, will captain the side for the first time, in what is coach Jono Gibbes' opening game in charge.
Flyhalf Johnny McPhillips, who has made four appearances as a replacement, will make his first senior start.
Also in the backline, Luke Marshall and Craig Gilroy return from injury lay-offs to earn starting berths at outside centre and right wing respectively.
McPhillips will have experience either side of him in the form of scrumhalf John Cooney and inside centre Stuart McCloskey, while Rob Lyttle and Charles Piutau will join Gilroy in a potent back three combination.
Gibbes has opted for Andy Warwick, John Andrew and Wiehahn Herbst in the front row, with Kieran Treadwell partnering O'Connor at lock.
The loose forwards are Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy and Nick Timoney.
Hooker Rob Herring has been released from the Ireland national camp and will provide cover on the bench, while Ireland Under-20 duo Matthew Dalton and Jonny Stewart are also included among the replacements.
Kyle McCall, Rodney Ah You and Chris Henry are the other forwards included in the matchday squad, with Darren Cave and Louis Ludik providing further backline options.
Pieterse was optimistic that the Southern Kings will be competitive in this clash and added that they are still desperately hunting that first win in the competition.
"We came close a couple of times and we were poor a couple of times," Pieterse said.
"Overall though, I feel we have continued to grow as a squad and as a team and has shown that we do not have to step aside for anyone in this competition. That first win will come, the important thing for us will be to play for it with determination and not frantic panic."
Pieterse feels that the pace of Volmink and good game management from Banda could add the spark to help them over the line.
"Both are excellent players and does add that extra we are looking for. We are solid in most areas, but need to find that combination of consistency and counter-attack. Ulster will again be a tough task, especially at home, but we remain positive that we can beat any team any day."
Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Rob Lyttle, 10 Johnny McPhillips, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Matty Rea, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O'Connor (captain), 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 John Andrew, 1 Andy Warwick.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Matthew Dalton, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Jonny Stewart, 22 Darren Cave, 23 Louis Ludik.
Southern Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Anthonie Volmink, 10 Martin Du Toit, 9 Rowan Gouws, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Martinus Burger, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Bobby De Wee, 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Michael Willemse (captain), 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Johan Smith, 18 Dayan Van der Westhuizen, 19 Jurie Van Vuuren, 20 Eital Bredenkamp, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Barend Janse van Rensburg, 23 Harlon Klaasen.
Date: Friday, February 9
Venue: Kingspan Stadium, Belfast
Kick-off: 19.35 (21.35 SA time; 19.35 GMT)
Referee: Joy Neville (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Kieran Barry (Ireland), Shane Kierans (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)