Is it possible?
Deon Davids has done an outstanding job with the Kings in his second season in charge. The Eastern Cape franchise has won five matches, including victories in Australia, Singapore and Argentina and also a first ever triumph against the Sharks in Port Elizabeth.
The Kings have played scintillating ball in hand attacking rugby and while their defence has been as generous as their attack they’ve been one of the most entertaining teams in the competition.
The gulf in class between the Kings and the title contenders can’t be ignored. The Lions hammered the Kings and even the Stormers put 40 past them in Port Elizabeth. The Kings have also profited this season from not playing any of the Kiwi franchises.
The Kings, because of their attitude and refusal to leave Super Rugby red faced with embarrassing on-field defeats, have become a people’s favourite. They are a liked outfit because of their attacking rugby. Everybody loves the underdog and this season the Kings have found the love and shared the love.
Kings players were rewarded with SA ‘A’ selection but it’s Davids reputation that has been most enhanced. His public persona is understated but his coaching influence must be overstated.
There must be investment in Davids and the international lifeline given the Kings will be part of this investment.
Davids will get a chance to coach against northern hemisphere teams when the Kings play in the expanded Pro12 competition. It’s a given the Kings and Cheetahs will be accommodated in the northern hemisphere and I believe both franchises will benefit from playing up north.
I think South African rugby will also get great value from having two franchises in the northern hemisphere club structure and four in Super Rugby.
The Kings and Cheetahs will also be more successful up north.
The South African Rugby Union on Friday will confirm the Kings and Cheetahs exit from Super Rugby. It’s the worst kept secret in South African rugby but because of the alternative of there being life after Super Rugby it’s also a decision that should be embraced.
The South African Rugby Union has found a solution to what was an initial problem when it came to the culling of two Super Rugby franchises in a restructured Super Rugby competition.
Super Rugby’s solution isn’t quite as obvious because the Sunwolves are proving to be everything but a Super Rugby franchise and Argentina’s Jaguares for the second successive season have struggled to last the pace in the tournament.
The Sunwolves have been shocking and on merit don’t belong in the competition. The only way the Sunwolves will be competitive is with a strong foreign recruitment drive to complement the best of their international players.
The Sunwolves’ plight is not South African Rugby’s concern. The Boks, at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, exhausted all charity towards Japanese rugby … forever!
South African rugby has to look after their own, and they’ve done this with ensuring there will be international life for the Kings and Cheetahs.
The Bulls will also have a heartbeat and pulse to handle the demands of Super Rugby in 2018 when former All Blacks and Lions coach John Mitchell takes charge. Mitchell will improve the Bulls. Of that there can be no doubt.
The Bulls were shock winners against the Sharks in Durban but that had as much to do with the ineptness of the Sharks.
The Bulls, individually, have some very good players but this season they haven’t matched the Kings as a collective.
I’m picking a Kings win in Pretoria, which is something I never thought I’d be writing in 2017.
Mark Keohane is a Cape-Town based award-winning rugby specialist and former Springbok Communications Manager. Follow him on Twitter
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