Teenager Sergeal Petersen was bubbling over with emotion after a marvelous performance, but stand-in skipper Andries Strauss has warned the Southern Kings to keep their feet on the ground for some tough matches ahead.
The Kings made a memorable Super Rugby debut with a 22-10 win over the Western Force in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, and the 18-year-old Petersen picked up the man of the match award after scoring two tries.
“You could not ask for a better start than this,” Petersen beamed after the match.
The youngster was delighted with his brace in front of his home crowd.
“It was emotional and passionate because I am from this area and I just want to give back to EP rugby what they’ve given me,” he said.
“It was a perfect start and it’s a dream to play with a team like this because we are all brothers.”
Strauss, one of the few Kings players with extensive Super Rugby experience, took over the captaincy after Luke Watson had to leave the field towards the end of the first half following a blow to the throat.
He said the result was a victory for their pre-season preparation following some hard work to mould a top flight outfit after the Kings received the go-ahead to join the competition in August.
“We worked hard in pre-season and moulded the side since day one, but we have to keep our feet on the ground,” Strauss said.
“We still have a lot of work to do and we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. It was a great win, we’ll take it, take the four points, but will go back to the training field and fix those mistakes.”
The Kings trailed 10-5 at half-time after spending most of the first half on defence and Strauss said their talk at the break revolved around the need to be positive.
“We just knew we had done the preparation and we had it in us to get a win, and at half-time we spoke about staying positive, to keep the ball and to limit the mistakes.
“I think we did that in the second half and managed to put some points on the board, and put the pressure back on the Force.”
After their promotion to Super Rugby was laced with controversy, when the SA Rugby Union decided to give the Kings a spot at the expense of the Lions, Strauss emphasised the need to get a victory under their belts.
“We targeted this first game because we knew we had to get a win to get the public behind us and to give belief in the team that we can compete in this competition,” he said.
“There was pressure from ourselves and from the outside, and I just hope we can take this momentum and go forward with confidence.
“We are fortunate to have the first few games at home. It means a lot to the team and to the public.
“We are not only playing for ourselves but for the whole province, so it was great to see so many fans out there, and hopefully we can give them another win in two weeks’ time.”
The Kings have a bye in the next round, and will line-up again on March 9 when they host the Sharks at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. – Sapa