The last time we attended the announcement of a local team playing in Super Rugby was 2013. Then there was a lot of excitement and hype as the brash young David frantically planned to take on Goliath.
Money was poured into the game like water and the public hoped and prayed that this would be our Cinderella moment on Rugby’s world stage. As we all know; “Hindsight is a bitch” and we watched it all crumble into infighting and what looks like the death (once again) of Eastern Province Rugby.
What is confusing to the general public is the fact that the Southern Kings are separate from the Eastern Province Kings – one would think that with the same last name that they were family….
The fact of the matter is that SARU own the franchise and ‘loaned’ out the Super Rugby money spinner rights to Eastern Province. When the proverbial started splattering all over the fan and onto the personage of SARU, they hastily stepped in, cherry picked the best talent, took the ‘loan’ away and established the Southern Kings as a separate unit.
Now Eastern Province is the base of a Super Rugby team again and ONCE AGAIN the local outfit is batting from a position of no strength as they try to build up a team with no current national players that will run out against teams boasting heaps of talent and players of international stature.
But, we still possess that unique fighting spirit and, despite decades of poor performance and the loss of talent to richer regions, we still believe that we can win… The game on Saturday against the Sharks will be the litmus test.
Southern Kings captain Steven Sykes will lead the team out when the Kings make their return to the Vodacom Super Rugby competition, playing their first match against the Cell C Sharks on Saturday.
Head Coach Deon Davids said he was looking forward to playing the first game of the season at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better draw, to start playing at home,” he said.
“We know that Port Elizabeth is the friendly city, they always support games well, they love their sport and their rugby and we are going to need that,” said Davids.
“I can assure you that the players wearing the jersey will do their utmost best,” he said.
Captain Sykes said supporters could expect something special from the team.
“I think the guys have a bigger, never say die attitude. The guys want to play, we want to show everyone that we are here to play rugby and here to play as a team,” he said.
Naming his team, Davids said a late withdrawal meant they had not yet finalised the bench for Saturday’s game.
“We had a late withdrawal of Jacobie Adriaanse as a result of concussion, but we have two props who are training with us since last week, Louis Alberts and Liam Hendricks, who we will evaluate,” said Davids.
Davids said both props would be part of a scrum session in the afternoon and the coaching staff would consider various factors before making a decision on who would come onto the bench.
“We are excited to go. The players have worked really hard and we have tried to tick most of the boxes in preparation for this game and are looking forward to this challenge and being able to play Super Rugby.
“We have huge respect for the Sharks. If you look at the players involved in their warm up matches, they have a good balanced squad, a mixture of experienced players with one or two youngsters coming through.
“They have a good pack of forwards and an exciting back line. The sharks are a team that wants to dominate opposition with go forward ball from set pieces. It will be a challenge for us, and we will have to ensure that we are defensively organised,” he said.
Davids said he was not concerned about the tempo of Vodacom Super Rugby.
“I am not concerned. We have talked about the intensity and what we can expect. We have tried to simulate that in our training sessions and have trained at a very high intensity.
“It is a case of how well we have done things we could have done up to now,” he said.
The Southern Kings team: 15. Jurgen Visser, 14. Luzuko Vulindlu, 13. JP du Plessis, 12. Shane Gates, 11. Malcolm Jaer, 10. Elgar Watts, 9. Ntando Kebe, 8. Jacques Engelbrecht, 7. Thembelani Bholi, 6. Chris Cloete, 5. John Charles Astle, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Tom Botha, 2. Martin Ferreira, 1. Schalk Ferreira.
Reserves: 16. Edgar Marutlulle, 17. Sithembiso (Sti) Sithole, 18. TBC, 19. Schalk Oelofse, 20. Cyril-John Velleman, 21. Leighton Eksteen, 22. Louis Fouche, 23. Charles Radebe.
The Kings meet the Sharks on 27 February 2016 @ 15h05 at the Nelson mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
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