ANALYSIS: Defence being greatest reward for Southern Kings following thumping of Rebels

BY MARC JACOBSON - MAY 3, 2017
ANALYSIS: Defence being greatest reward for Southern Kings following thumping of Rebels

The Southern Kings, after a gruelling four weeks against all-Australian opposition, welcome a rewarding and deserved bye rest this weekend, certainly with their heads held up high.

The Eastern Cape side, facing a pending axe from the Super Rugby competition, have evidently in recent weeks uplifted their game and intensity, which may impose the silver lining to their possible Super Rugby demise come 2018.

Unlike the Kings, the Free State Cheetahs, the other likely SA cull, have seemingly dropped their heads with battering, below-par losses in recent weeks, and are exposed as the sheep with wolf clothing after their sparkling Currie Cup 2016 triumph.

Sheep they have been, almost evidently accepting their fate for the hunt, while the Kings, are exponentially upping their game as each week goes by and are now perceivable as a force to be reckoned with.

Following their walloping 44-3 win over the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday, which followed suit from their historical 26-24 win over 2014 Super Rugby Champions, the Waratahs the previous week; what ultimately impressed Coach Deon Davids the most was his side’s defensive efforts.

“In this game, the guys really played to their potential, they really showed what they can do with ball-in-hand, but defensively we were actually really good, where with long patches throughout the game the boys were forced to defend, and did so really well,” Coach Deon Davids told the media after the game.

“That contributed towards creating turnovers and opportunities for us to capitalize with ball-in-hand, especially playing with long periods in our own half,” Davids said.

The Rebels played the game with 61% possession to the Kings’ 39%, with the EC side achieving an overall 86.5% tackle completion rate, to the Rebels’ 69.8%.

Those defensive stats speak for themselves, and while being well-seconded on possession, the Kings still managed to score six tries to the Rebels’ nil – which soapboxes their barricading efforts as opposed to previous matches.

In application, Coach Davids lauded the side’s defence, without taking for granted the attacking prowess shown – which had in previous weeks, not necessarily being lacked.

Like Rebels’ Head Coach, Tony McGahan, put it, “they [Southern Kings] scored 41 points in Perth [against Force], 34 against the Reds in Brisbane and 26 against the Waratahs, so their attacking strengths have been well-rated throughout the competition.”

Before the Rebels’ game, the Kings scored a total 27 tries in the then eight matches, just above three tries per game, but have had little to show for it due to conceding 37 tries in the same tenure.

Following Saturday’s six-try deficit, the Kings managed to close the gap (33-37) on the defensive/attacking ratio and evidently, also the gap between themselves and the rest of the SA ‘powerhouses’.

Three of the six tries, of which, were scored from turnovers forced, and that again get given credit to their defence.

Five tries of the six though, were also scored all emerging from approximately 40-plus metres out which also coincides with the clinical and exuberant Kings’ display outed with the ball-in-hand on Saturday.

One area that raised a concern for Coach Deon Davids, however, was their discipline on a day where they conceded 11 penalties to the Rebels’ five, specifically in the first half when the Kings only lead 11-3.

“We spoke about discipline at half-time, and that is one part where we can revisit to concede fewer penalties, and that is something we will work on heading into our next game” he said.

“We wanted to start the game a bit quicker, and we were a bit slow out the blocks and I could see with the try just after half-time that there was renewed energy and confidence and from there, we just kept going,” he added.

With this, Davids emphasized that it was important to have a good start in uplifting the team to create more opportunities, and to that, certain individual players filtered this up-hype, which seeped contributions on the scoreboard.

Man-of-the-match and left wing, Makazole Mapimpi, ran a total 146m go-forward in eight carries with four clean breaks and eight defenders beaten. Eighth-man, Andisa Ntsila, also had a superb outing with 13 carries, 118 go-forward metres and five defenders beaten, with also 13 tackles made.

Fullback, Masixole Banda was also well-complimented at the back three from Mapimpi’s performance, with a total 123 run-forward metres in an astonishing 18 carries, while also forming a polished link with a total 13 passes.

Topping the defensive charts, Wilhelm van der Sluys made a total 20 grunting tackles, backed up by 18 from prop Ross Geldenhuys and 17 from each Chris Cloete and Irne Herbst.

“We saw on attack, the different opportunities created for ourselves, and defensively we put a special focus on too – there’s no point in scoring 40 points when the opposition also scores 40 points,” commented Kings Captain, Lionel Cronje at the same media addressing.

“The biggest reward for us tonight was our defence, of course along with our attack, which complimented each other well, and it was really good for us to put a full game together, probably for the first time this season,” Cronje added.

The Southern Kings window to a bye from the competition this week, before taking to the field against the high-flying Sharks next weekend, after their confidence-boosting 33-25 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires last week.

After unluckily and narrowly going down 19-17 to the same Sharks side about a month and a half ago, the Kings will certainly seek to earn redemption and acclaim SA Super Rugby flag bearing status for the competition moving forward. 

Image: Ross Geldenhuys clinging on for a tackle against the Rebels.