Ricochet News

Southern Kings forced to rebuild again for more promising future

By Marc Jacobson - Aug 4, 2017
Southern Kings forced to rebuild again for more promising future

The Southern Kings recent entry announcement into the enlarged Guinness Pro14 tournament has left the franchise rather bare, following their sparkling 2017 Super Rugby campaign – but while this is the case, there cheers much exuberance for playing up north in the side’s new professional stanza.

Unfortunately for the Kings, the side will have to dress over their squad for a third time in the space of four years, with a massive exodus of players and coaching staff having dispersed to other pastures.

To this demise, it was relatively uncertain what the future held for the franchise when these parties were stemming opportunities elsewhere.

Out of a full squad of 47 players who were contracted or loaned at the Kings for the 2017 Super Rugby season, a shocking 27 players have departed from their services; this when the Pro14 commences in just over a month’s time.

Most notably, star performers Chris Cloete (Munster), Lionel Cronje (Toyota Verblitz), Louis Schreuder (Sharks), Makazole Mapimpi (Cheetahs), Tyler Paul (Sharks) and Andisa Ntsila (SWD Eagles); have been some hampering departures.

It is still determining however, whether the Border Bulldogs and the Eagles will conjoin the Kings with more loans, as per their history, the Kings use to umbrella both those neighbouring franchises. Last year however, it was announced that the Bulldogs were partnering with the Bulls and SWD Eagles with Western Province.

Malcolm Jaer, who has rose to prominence over the last two seasons for the Kings has also extended his trade onto fellow Pro14 entrants, the Cheetahs – accompanying Mapimpi.

It is also still unclear whether CJ Velleman, star fetcher from 2016 but side-lined for the whole of 2017 due to injury, will be staying or if he would be entering WP’s fold, as rumoured.

Stefan Willemse, another Kings hard man loose-forward, has been linked with a move to the Pumas and will out for the Nelspruit side against WP in the Currie Cup this weekend – so his availability is still unclear.

Fortunately, Captain Schalk Ferreira looks to be staying after having faithfully remained with the Kings since their Super Rugby entry in 2013.

Promising rising stars, Yaw Penxe and Siyanda Grey, who both represented the SA U20 side at the U20 World Championship in Georgia this year, are also set to remain, while veteran centre, Waylon Murray and regular starter, Berton Klassen are both continuing their stints in the midfield for the Kings.

In the coaching ranks, backline coach, Vuyo Zangqa has taken up a coaching offer in Germany, while team analyst Lindsay Weyer and team doctor, Konrad von Hagen, have both ascended their duties to the national set-up.

Head coach, Deon Davids, is still set to remain, and fortunately so, as he was the mastermind in stringing together the squad in 2016 in the first place, when the Kings were forced to build a squad from the ashes.

The player dilution may seem like a grim tale, but the Kings entering the northern hemisphere could benefit the union, the Cheetahs, and SA Rugby as a whole, in that the country can tap into two different markets in a given season.

The Eastern Cape side has shown an exponential improvement from 2016’s Super Rugby season, which tallied their wins to six out of 15 and 11th position out of a total 18 sides, while in 2016, racked up just two overall wins and 17th position.

Included in their six wins this year, the Kings claimed first ever wins over fellow SA sides, the Sharks and the Bulls, as well as the disguised Argentinean internationals, the Jaguares and 2014 Champions, the Waratahs in Australia.

Although this will not necessarily bode much for the new proposed Kings’ set-up, it deems well for the potential growth of the union if the best platform is laid out – and this rooting from the Pro14 competition, which has prominent international affiliation and standards.

Both the Cheetahs and the Kings inclusion in the Pro14 can also give rise to the influx of players to the respective unions, with new potential European riches being explored, while possibly magnetizing SA players who are already playing their trades in the Celtic league.

Coach Davids and his team will certainly have their work cut out for them in assembling new growth, but it will be growth worth substance, as they leave the scarred toxicity left in the currently flawed format of Super Rugby; to at least the certainty now of not being pushed around by the indecisive SA Rugby Union.

It is rumoured too, however, according to a statement that SARU would ‘attempt’ to make some sort of amends by providing international marquee player signings to both the Kings and the Cheetahs – in what will add more spice to the competition.

All the Kings home games will be played at the NMB Stadium, so Port Elizabeth residents can be prepared for rugby action at the stadium during the South African summer – another new dimension worth experiencing.

With the Pro14 being divided in two conferences of seven, the Kings will be placed in Conference B alongside the Scarlets and Dragons (Wales), Leinster and Ulster (Ireland), Edinburgh (Scotland) and Treviso (Italy).

The Kings will play each of these six sides twice home and away (12 games), while playing all seven sides in Conference A (Ospreys, Cardiff Blues, Munster, Connacht, Glasgow, Zebre and Cheetahs) once either home or away (seven games).

In addition, to maintain the lure of derby clashes, an additional two games will be added to the fixtures for the remaining open void of derbies – and in the Kings case, they will play an extra two home and away games against the Cheetahs, meaning a total three matches between the Kings and the Cheetahs, in what may sought a new rivalry between the two franchises.

This will be the same case for both Scottish and Italian sides with only two representatives in the tournament, but in the case of Wales and Ireland with four sides each; each team will play those extra two games against the two compatriot sides in their respective opposite conference – allowing for two games (home and away) between all the teams from those two countries.

This brings the total amount of games for each side to 21 for the 2017/18 season which will extend until next year May.

The fixtures for the enlarged Guinness Pro14 are set to be released over the course of next week, with the first round of matches set to take place within the first week of September.

Possible stayers in the Kings squad in no specific order:

Chrysander Botha, Siyanda Grey, Waylon Murray, Berton Klaasen, Yaw Penxe, Pieter-Steyn de Wet, Ricky Schroeder, Christiaan de Bruin, Stefan Willemse, Sintu Manjezi, Giant Mtyanda, Justin Forwood, Tango Balekile, Schalk Ferreira (captain), CJ Stander, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Johann Tromp, Martin Bezuidenhout, Garrick Mattheus.