FRASER McKenzie has signed a two-year contract extension with Edinburgh and will captain the team against the Southern Kings tomorrow on his return from injury. The lock leads a much-changed side, with several internationals rested after a busy spell which has seen them beat Newcastle Falcons and Glasgow Warriors home and away.
“I’m delighted to be staying in Edinburgh for another two years and I can’t wait to get back on the field with my team-mates tomorrow evening,” said McKenzie, who was also club captain for the bulk of last season. “It’s an exciting period for this team and I’m looking forward to playing my part in bringing success to this club and to this city.”
McKenzie is joined in the pack by Jamie Ritchie and Bill Mata from the team that started last week’s win at Scotstoun, while wingers Darcy Graham and Duhan van der Merwe also retain their places for the PRO14 game against the South Africans.
A strong bench includes Ross Ford and Pierre Schoeman up front, with scrum-half Charlie Shiel in line to make his competitive debut.
Edinburgh are fifth in Conference B, but only three points behind second-placed Ulster. “We have to keep battling away,” head coach Richard Cockerill said. “Players have to front up, it’s simple as that. The settled part of our squad has been really good for us, especially on short turnarounds.
“There’s a long way to go. I want to be in Europe next year and we have to qualify for that. We have a lot to do. We want to be in the play-offs again. We have a lot to prove. We just have to keep our feet on the ground and continue to work hard.”
Edinburgh (v Southern Kings at BT Murrayfield, Saturday 7.35pm, live on Premier Sports): Dougie Fife; Darcy Graham, George Taylor, Juan Pablo Socino, Duhan van der Merwe; Simon Hickey, Nathan Fowles; Rory Sutherland, David Cherry, Simon Berghan, Fraser McKenzie, Callum Hunter-Hill, Jamie Ritchie, Luke Crosbie, Viliame Mata. Substitutes: Ross Ford, Pierre Schoeman, Pietro Ceccarelli, Ben Toolis, Ally Miller, Charlie Shiel, Jaco van der Walt, James Johnstone.
Southern Kings: Masixole Banda; Michael Makase, Harlon Klaasen, Tertius Kruger, Yaw Penxe; Martin Du Toit, Stefan Ungerer; Alulutho Tshakweni, Alandre Van Rooyen, Pieter Scholtz, Stephan Greeff, John-Charles Astle, Cyril-John Velleman, Martinus Burger, Ruaan Lerm. Substitutes: Michael Willemse, Nicolaas Oosthuizen, Luvuyo Pupuma, Lubabalo Mtyanda, Andries van Schalkwyk, Sarel Pretorius, Berton Klaasen, Ntabeni Dukisa.