England Sevens speedster and UCT hero Mat Turner has been handed a late call-up to the Southern Kings side for next week’s historic meeting with the British & Irish Lions.
Twenty-one-year-old Turner will replace Ryno Benjamin in the Southern Kings XV, with the SA Sevens star having picked up a hamstring injury. There are also a number of other former and current UCT starts in the mix, they are lock Ross Skeate (currently Toulon), SA Sevens star Mpho Mbiyozo, hooker Simon Westraadt and big Lungelo Payi who currently plays at False Bay.
The Southern Kings coaches also have Blue and White pedigree, with Alan Solomons, Rob Kempson and Gareth Wright the men in charge.
Mat Turner recently completed his first season of Premiership rugby with English club Bristol, but is currently on holiday in South Africa ahead of the new season.
He will play in Tuesday’s match in Port Elizabeth before flying back to England on Wednesday – in time to begin pre-season training with his club, who will be competing in the National Division One in 2009/10.
“It’s a great opportunity for Mat – he is very excited to be part of the Kings team for this match,” said Turner’s agent, Kevin Foote, on www.in-site.co.za.
“We cleared everything with Ben Ryan (Mat’s England Sevens coach) and the coaching staff at Bristol; they’re delighted for him too and realise it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Mat to play against the Lions.”
Foote added: “Mat had a stop-start first season at Bristol, but he is very determined to hit the ground running when he returns for pre-season training.
“At the same time, however, a fixture like this against the Lions will help put him in the shop window, so to speak, and give him an ideal opportunity to show British fans just what he is capable of.”
Turner – a schoolboy star for Diocesan College (Bishops) in Cape Town – joined Bristol last year from UCT, having nearly helped his university to victory in the inaugural Varsity Cup earlier in the season.
A wing, or fullback, with a nose for the tryline, Turner – who was not even a regular member of the Western Province Under-20 squad last year – made his England Sevens debut in George in December 2008.
Southern Kings – revised: 15 Tiger Mangweni, 14 Wylie Human, 13 Frikkie Welsh, 12 De Wet Barry, 11 Mat Turner, 10 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Darron Nell, 7 Solly Tyibilika, 6 Mpho Mbiyozo, 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Marco Wentzel, 3 Ruan Vermeulen, 2 Derick Küun, 1 Jaco Engels.
Replacements – from: Simon Westraadt, Kevin Buys, Lungelo Payi, Heinrich Stride, Josh Fowles, Mzwandile Stick, Elgar Watts, Bevin Fortuin, Henry Grimes, Michael Coetzee.
Date: Tuesday, June 16
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 15.00 (13.00 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
TMO: Johann Meuwesen