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Southern Kings evidently ‘less impressive’ in Super Rugby 2016

Southern Kings evidently ‘less impressive’ in Super Rugby 2016

With merely several players remaining in the Southern Kings set-up since the 2013 Super Rugby campaign, the Eastern Cape side has showed a decline in performance value throughout the 2016 season.

The 2016 Super Rugby season, has seen a further three additional teams added to the tournament, allowing for a new format and match schedule.

The Kings were one of those three additions, with South Africa boasting six sides, whereas previously there were five SA representatives. The Lions did not qualify for the 2013 campaign, which made way for the Southern Kings to take part on the wider platform.

Taking into account who the Kings had faced in respect to 2013, as well as the form and performance value of other respective teams, the Port Elizabeth-based side did show a slight decline in their performance standards.

Over 18 matches played in 2013, the Kings won three and drew one – beating Force and Rebels from Australia and the Highlanders from New Zealand, while drawing with the Brumbies from Australia. They ended up last out of 15 teams with a finalised points’ difference of -266.

Throughout the 15 games played in the 2016 campaign, the Kings won two games with an overall points’ difference of a dismal -402. This suggests that their average losing margin for the season stands at 26.8 points per match, as opposed to 14.78 points per match in 2013.

The Kings were able to hold their opposition counterparts under the bar for longer periods of time in the 2013 breakaway season, and this is especially evident in home games – when teams are to play to their best potential. Evident comparisons that suggest this are home games against the Chiefs, losing just 35-24 in 2013 (Chiefs went on to win the Super Rugby that year), while going down 58-24 this year. The Kings also held the Sharks considerably in the home match in 2013, going down just 21-12, while losing 43-8 at home this year to the same opposition.

Against the ever-consistent New Zealand sides, the Kings in 2013 played four games against four NZ sides (missing out against the Blues due to the then-fixture schedule) with an average losing margin of just 13.75 points per match – while winning one of those four. In 2016, the Kings played all five NZ sides, winning none, with an average losing margin of 27 points per match.

Taking both 2013 and 2016 into account, the Kings still remain winless against other South African sides, however with regards to overall competitiveness; the average losing margin against SA opposition in 2013 was 20.5 points per match, while in 2016 it has heightened to 33.29 points per match.

In 2016, the Kings did not play Australian opposition and in 2013, the Kings did not play the Jaguares from Argentina, neither the Sunwolves from Japan, due to the tournament expansion, format and fixture changes that disguised the tournament this year. It is through this, that it is noticeable that both the Kings’ victories in 2016 were against an under-developed Sunwolves side, winning 33-28 and against a 12-man Jaguares side downsized by red cards throughout the match – winning 29-22.

In 2013, the Kings displayed more versatility and precision in their victories as they overcame the Force 22-10 and Highlanders 34-27 at home, while beating the Rebels 30-27 in Australia. Over and above that, the Kings managed to succumb to the Brumbies onslaught on Australian soil as they forced a 28-all draw, with the Brumbies still progressing to the final that year; going down narrowly to the Chiefs.

On home soil at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, where the best is supposed to be brought out by playing in front of local crowds, the Kings had an average losing margin of 16.87 points per match in 2013, with a singular 72-10 loss to the Waratahs hindering that figural prospect. In 2016, their home losses were more dismally consistent as their average losing margin stood at 21.25 points per match.

Ultimately on log standings, the Kings ended second-last out of 18 teams in 2016, scraping just above the Sunwolves due to winning an extra match. With regards to log points, the Kings obtained nine points after 15 matches in 2016, while getting 16 points in 16 matches in 2013 (omitting the eight points for the two byes back then).

The Southern Kings’ performances in 2013, is no way near anything to boast about, but they were better prospects than what the union displayed in the 2016 campaign, and improvement is always encouraging. If not anything, the Kings three years ago did show promise and had a vastly different mix of players than this year’s squad, lending over that the three year break from Super Rugby may have hindered the union’s development.

Ongoing financial woes may have been one of those hindered aspects for the side in this year’s competition, as their preparation and pre-season was de-altered for the team to successfully flourish and represent themselves as the tournament commenced. The union were forced to get SA Rugby to step in and pay player salaries and due to this constant off-field friction – there may have been psychological deterioration in the camp as a whole.

This year was back to square one for the Kings, and the aforementioned stats and comparisons merely suggests that development and progression for the Eastern Cape franchise starts only after this year. It is a matter of time to wait and see how the Super Rugby campaign unravels in next year’s edition, however, improvement from this year should be one of the only strategies on the playing cards for the Kings.