REJUVENATED after staging a remarkable comeback against the Brumbies, the Southern Kings will carry newfound momentum into their Super 15 showdown with the Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday.
Thanks to their gutsy 28-28 draw against the men from Canberra, the Kings will fancy their chances of emerging with vital points against the struggling Rebels.
The Rebels are in 12th spot on the combined log after winning only two of their seven games, putting them only three points ahead of the Kings, who have played a match less.
However, the rookies are taking nothing for granted against the Melbourne-based side.
“We travelled to Melbourne on Saturday and we will do a bit of recovery and review the Brumbies game,” Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons said.
“Then we can really get stuck in and have a full week to prepare for the Rebels — we are certainly not taking them for granted. They are … desperate to get their competition back on track and we know it is going to be a tough game.
“The identity of this Kings team is character, courage and commitment and that has been built on the back of potent conditioning and potent defence,” he said.
Solomons said all credit had to go to the players, who had put on an incredible performance despite a few mistakes.
“We made mistakes, our discipline was poor and we gave away too many key penalties, one of which resulted in a try. Our kick execution from exiting our own half was poor between our tryline and 10m line, and catching the halfway kick-offs was poor, which put us under a lot of stress,” he said.
Despite the three points they earned against the Brumbies, the Kings are firmly rooted to the foot of the South African conference and will need to start winning games if they plan to avoid a promotion-relegation match against the Lions at the end of the season.
Kings chairman Cheeky Watson said he was delighted with the resilience and character the team showed against the Brumbies.
Asked whether he thought the game was a turning point, he said: “No, I think the turning point in the season came in the very first match when we beat the Force in Port Elizabeth.
“Now, when the team return from Australia, their first home game is against the Bulls on April 20 and I have no doubt the Nelson Mandela Stadium will be filled to its 44,000 capacity,” Watson said.
Meanwhile, whatever effort the Stormers put into the remainder of their Super 15 campaign will have to be without gifted utility back Jaco Taute, while the availability of flyhalf Elton Jantjies and flank Siya Kolisi is also in serious doubt for next weekend’s clash against the Sharks.
Taute injured his right knee in the Stormers’ 26-24 defeat to the Cheetahs on Saturday and coach Allister Coetzee did not paint a rosy picture of his prognosis, saying: “Jaco’s injury looks like it could be long-term. He’ll go for a scan but it doesn’t look good. Siya injured his ankle and Elton also has a knee injury.”
Captain Jean de Villiers was equally downcast. “We’re looking pretty thin at the moment. That will challenge the team,” he said.
The fourth defeat of their campaign has lengthened the odds of Coetzee’s side making the playoffs. They now occupy 11th place on the log with just two wins from their six matches. They play conference leaders the Sharks next weekend before embarking on their overseas tour to take on the Hurricanes, Blues, Waratahs and Rebels.
The Stormers — last year’s conference winners — have been well short of their ruthless, efficient best. Uncharacteristic errors blighted their performance against the Cheetahs and the coach and captain are at their wits’ end.
“We improve some areas but then we do poorly in others. We can’t seem to get everything to work together,” lamented De Villiers.
The Stormers were impeccable in the line-out but their scrum was wonky and their handling poor.
With Liam del Carme