SOUTHERN Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons says his team’s “bounce-back” win over the Highlanders was a huge morale booster ahead of their crunch Super Rugby showdown against the Cheetahs.
The Kings have a bye this weekend but are back in action at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on May 25 in a clash that could define their season.
A win over the Cheetahs will raise hope that they can climb off the foot of the South African conference and avoid a bitter promotion-relegation match against the Lions at the end of the season.
“The win over the Highlanders was huge for us,” Solomons said.
“Last week against the Waratahs that was not us and we knew that.
“We knew it was the fatigue factor after playing nine matches on the trot. Even though we were tired, the approach we had was we had to get through the last hurdle before the bye. We can equate it to a marathon and we hit the wall against the Waratahs,” Solomons said.
“The win over the Highlanders was a big boost for our morale. We were up against a side with a number of All Blacks.”
The Kings “freshened things up” ahead of the Highlanders game, and had a yoga session and swam at the beach in a revamped schedule to prepare for the showdown.
“It was a test of their character and they rose to the challenge. At this level it is black or it is white. There is no grey.
“You either pass the character test or you fail and they passed against the Highlanders,’’ Solomons said.
The Kings boss said he was delighted that Shane Gates had made his Super Rugby debut against the Highlanders.
“These are the things that make me proudest. I can remember a young Gates and his parents sitting with me and EP Academy manager Robbi Kempson and us saying he must come to our academy.
“He was a star at Muir College and was among the first intake to our academy. It was great to see Gates get his Super Rugby debut and it was a wonderful moment.”
After the win, head coach Matt Sexton and Solomons paid tribute to loose forward Devin Oosthuizen who gave an impressive display when he came off the bench.
“Devin has been here since 2011 when we got him from Pretoria. He has been playing well in the Vodacom Cup and with Jacques Engelbrecht out with an ankle injury he got an opportunity.”