SCOTLAND squad members Chris Dean, Luke Crosbie and David Cherry have all been included in the Edinburgh team for tomorrow’s PRO14 fixture against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth, lessening the likelihood of their appearing for the national side in next Saturday’s Six Nations international against Italy.
The inclusion of Cherry in Richard Cockerill’s squad appears to leave Jake Kerr of Leicester and Grant Stewart of Glasgow Warriors to fight it out to be back-up hooker to Stuart McInally against the Italians. Despite the absence through injury of Edinburgh duo Matt Scott and Mark Bennett, Scotland coach Gregor Townsend still has ample resources at centre, and Dean may have to wait until near the end of the campaign to make his debut. Similarly, the back row is one of the best-resourced parts of the national squad, probably meaning that Crosbie, too, will have to be patient.
Six of Cockerill’s starting 15 also played in last Friday’s Champions Cup win against Montpellier – Dean and his fellow-centre James Johnstone, half-backs Jaco van der Walt and Henry Pyrgos, loosehead Pierre Schoeman and No 8 Bill Mata. Johnstone has moved from his usual position to cover for Duhan van der Merwe on the left wing, with George Taylor taking over at 13.
On the bench, Ross Ford is the replacement hooker and Darryl Marfo should get a rare run-out at loosehead. Back-row forward Mungo Mason, a Scotland Sevens squad member who turned out for Edinburgh in pre-season, is also included among the replacements.
“We’ve had a tough and intense week of training in Port Elizabeth and the boys are looking forward to going up against a combative Southern Kings side,” head coach Cockerill said. “The players should take credit for our good run of form, but we’ve got to back it up at the Madibaz Stadium tomorrow evening.
“We certainly won’t take our opponents lightly. We will need to be at the top of our game, both mentally and physically, if we are to secure all points on offer come full-time.”
Kings head coach Deon Davids will have to make a late decision at loosehead between Schalk Ferreira, who injured his back in training, and the less experienced Alulutho Tshakweni. Nicolaas Oosthuizen will drop out of the squad if Ferreira is passed fit.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Munster will take place at BT Murrayfield on Saturday 30 March, kicking off at 12.45pm. It will be shown on Channel 4 and BT Sport. Glasgow’s game at Saracens is at 3.15pm the same afternoon and is on BT Sport, Leinster play Ulster at 7.45 that evening, and Racing 92 meet Toulouse on Sunday afternoon.
Edinburgh (v Southern Kings at Madibaz Stadium, Saturday 3.15pm British time, live on Premier Sports): Dougie Fife; Tom Brown, George Taylor, Chris Dean, James Johnstone; Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos; Pierre Schoeman, David Cherry, Pietro Ceccarelli, Fraser McKenzie, Callum Hunter-Hill, Luke Crosbie, Ally Miller, Bill Mata. Substitutes: Ross Ford, Darryl Marfo, Murray McCallum, Jamie Hodgson, Mungo Mason, Nathan Fowles, Simon Hickey, Juan Pablo Socino.
Southern Kings: Masixole Banda; Yaw Penxe, Harlon Klaasen, Tertius Kruger, Bjorn Basson;
Ntabeni Dukisa, Stefan Ungerer; Schalk Ferreira / Alulutho Tshakweni, Michael Willemse, Luvuyo Pupuma, Andries Van Schalkwyk, John-Charles Astle (C), Cyril John Velleman, Martinus Burger, Andisa Ntsila. Substitutes: Alandre Van Rooyen, Lupumlo Mguca, Alulutho Tshakweni/ Nicolaas Oosthuizen, Stephan Greeff, Henry Brown, Sarel Pretorius, Bader Pretorius, Meli Rokoua.