Van der Walt to make 50th appearance against Southern Kings
Stand-off Jaco van der Walt returns to the starting XV to make his 50th appearance for the capital club as Edinburgh Rugby make 11 changes for tomorrow night’s Guinness PRO14 Conference B clash against Southern Kings at BT Murrayfield (Saturday 4 January, kick-off 7.45pm) – live on Premier Sports.
A rotated backline sees Van der Walt partnered with Henry Pyrgos at half-back, with an all-new centre pairing of Matt Scott and James Johnstone selected in midfield. Fijian international Eroni Sau returns on the wing.
In the forward pack, loosehead prop Jamie Bhatti gets the nod alongside hooker Mike Willemse in the front-row, as Scotland international lock Lewis Carmichael starts to make his eighth appearance of the season.
A revamped back-row combination sees John Barclay return from injury to feature at openside flanker, with Magnus Bradbury and Nick Haining named at blindside flanker and No. 8 respectively.
Ahead of the match, Head Coach Richard Cockerill, said: “We were obviously delighted with the derby win last weekend, but as we’ve spoken about all week in training, it means nothing if we don’t turn up and perform against Southern Kings tomorrow night.
“We are proud of our unbeaten home record at BT Murrayfield and we want to keep it that way. We are playing with confidence and determination, and hopefully that continues as we face a really tough and much improved Kings side.
“We’ve made a number of changes to the team, but it is still an experienced squad who are more than capable of putting in a winning performance.
“We’re excited to be back in front of our home support at BT Murrayfield and we very much want to start 2020 off with a win.”
The inclusion of Sau on the wing is the only alteration to an otherwise unchanged back-three as Blair Kinghorn and Duhan van der Merwe are once again selected in the starting line-up.
Scotland star Scott – who enjoyed an impressive 24-minute appearance from the bench in last weekend’s 1872 Cup derby win – links-up with Johnstone in midfield, as scrum-half Pyrgos – who skippers the side – is paired with Van der Walt at half-back.
Hooker Willemse – who faces his former side – packs down alongside Scotland internationalists Bhatti and WP Nel in the front-row, with locks Carmichael and Grant Gilchrist paired in the second-row.
A back-row trio of Bradbury, Barclay and Haining complete the pack.
Edinburgh Rugby team to face Southern Kings at BT Murrayfield in the Guinness PRO14
Saturday 4 January, kick-off 7.45pm – live on Premier Sports
15. Blair Kinghorn (85)
14. Eroni Sau (6)
13. James Johnstone (46)
12. Matt Scott (90)
11. Duhan van der Merwe (51)
10. Jaco van der Walt (49)
9. Henry Pyrgos (32) CAPTAIN
1. Jamie Bhatti (9)
2. Mike Willemse (12)
3. WP Nel (136)
4. Lewis Carmichael (40)
5. Grant Gilchrist (144)
6. Magnus Bradbury (73)
7. John Barclay (8)
8. Nick Haining (6)
Replacements: 16. Dave Cherry (18) 17. Pierre Schoeman (34) 18. Simon Berghan (74) 19. Ben Toolis (117) 20. Luke Crosbie (33) 21. Charlie Shiel (12) 22. Simon Hickey (29) 23. Mark Bennett (31)
Unavailable: Fraser McKenzie, Chris Dean, Viliame Mata, Jamie Ritchie, Stuart McInally