Southern Kings captain Luke Watson paid tribute to their supporters as the Eastern Cape franchise registered their third Super Rugby win with a 34-27 win over the Highlanders at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
“A lot of credit must go to the crowd – we got absolutely pumped last week (by the Waratahs) and to see this crowd (18 500) here – it’s thanks to the supporters for turning up. We really appreciate the support.
“We were able to bounce back and showed a lot of character.”
Coming off a 72-10 thrashing from the Waratahs, the Kings were under pressure going into the Highlanders match but produced one of their best performances to secure a bonus-point win.
Up 34-17 with 10 minutes to go, the Kings had to withstand a late surge from the New Zealand franchise before securing an important victory.
Watson, himself, showed much better form as he and fellow loose forwards Wimpie van der Walt and man of the match Cornell du Preez played key roles in the victory.
The skipper scored two tries from driving mauls, the second coming on the stroke of halftime when they spurned the chance of three points by kicking a penalty to the touchline.
“We don’t have much to lose and we have to take some risks,” Watson said.
“Tonight it came off and if it hadn’t the coach would have wrung my neck.”
Watson also praised the younger players in the team, many of whom are experiencing their first season of Super Rugby.
“It’s unbelievable to have the younger guys coming through,” he said.
“Take a guy like Cornell du Preez – he’s playing his first season of Super Rugby and has been one of the best loose forwards of the competition, so I’m just lucky to have my place back.
“To have so many youngsters coming through speaks volumes for the talent in this region.”
Watson said the team were now looking forward to “kicking our feet up” with a bye next weekend.
For visiting captain Andrew Hore, it was another disappointing result in a season in which the Highlanders have registered just one victory.
“We just gave away too many penalties and they kicked for the line and had some pretty good mauls,” Hore said.
“It’s pretty disappointing to come all this way and come second again, but we have seven days to regroup and take on the Bulls next weekend.”