Ricochet News

Southern Kings need window of introspection as Pro14 unravels

By Marc Jacobson - Oct 19, 2017
Southern Kings need window of introspection as Pro14 unravels

The Southern Kings have over the last month and a half enveloped into the Guinness Pro14 fold, and with a building squad still in its infancy, to their misfortunes, were forced to regress for the third time in the space of four years – due to ongoing maladministration in the Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU).

Hopefully though, for Eastern Capers, the Pro14 offers that glimmer of hope needed, in what can be an illuminating future for the franchise; but only if a self-indulged introspection is applied by the side playing for a marked on-swing change of events as the tournament further continues next week.

It is understandable that a side stripped of almost 100% of their threshold after the Super Rugby campaign in July would struggle against already settled, experienced and internationally-affiliated oppositions just a month later, but what the Kings need is some sort of blueprint to code their development. Despite the demising results, the Kings have still shone positive lights throughout their six matches so far.

Individually, star eighth-man Andisa Ntsila ranked second-highest on most tackles made in the competition so far, making a total 80 tackles behind the Cheetahs’ Paul Schoeman with 83. In the last round, three Kings’ players notched up in the top five places for tackles made, namely: Jurie van Vuuren at second (18), Ntsila and Bobby de Wee (17) tying at third.

Fullback Masixole Banda has beaten the third highest number of defenders in the competition so far (20), made the fourth most offloads (12) and the seventh most go-forward metres (366m). Captain Michael Willemse has also won the third most turnovers in the competition so far (7), while Ntsila again makes his mark, making the sixth most carries so far (64).

When team stats are concerned though, there is a much grimmer tale tipping the tongue, with the Kings submersing well-below the rest. Starting off with tries, the Kings have only scored a total seven tries and conceded a shocking 31, while with possession and territory, the Kings average only 41.5% possession and 39.67% territory – and their oppositions reversibly claiming 58.5% and 60.33% respectively.

The Kings have ran in a total 1842 go-forward metres in 613 ball carries, to their oppositions’ 3295m in 893 ball carries, almost doubling. Average metres per run for the Kings stands at 3.0, with their oppositions straddling in 3.69 metres per carry.  

Passes completed, which tokens a lot for the respective sides’ ability to interplay between the backs and forwards a like, also marks a telling statement. The Kings have only completed a total of 793 passes to their oppositions’ 1210. When it comes to clean breaks, the Kings do not come close, only making 28 line breaks to their oppositions’ 80.

The Kings, however, evidently enjoy playing a territorial game better, kicking 97 kicks from hand, to their oppositions’ 113, but how effective those kicks have been also poses another question.

The Port Elizabeth-based side have made a tackle-completion rate of 83.74% to their oppositions’ 85.43%, but missing an average 24.5 tackles per match, also hints volumes of the Kings’ defensive lapses.

Where some positivity does simmer though for the teams’ stakes, is that throughout the Pro14 campaign so far, the Kings always have managed to at least put up half a showing in all their games, bar the last match, where they played well and took it to their opposition in either half of all the respective encounters.

Their strong half performances in each game reflected as follows: Scarlets down only 15-10 at half-time (lost 57-10), Connacht second half down only 8-5 (lost 32-10), Leinster down only 7-3 at half-time (lost 31-10), Zebre second half down only 21-14 (lost 43-17) and Dragons drew 7-7 in the second half (lost 29-13); while against Benneton their loss was relatively evenly dished between the two halves, losing 31-3.

This is an indictment that the Kings certainly are at least doing something right, for at least half the time, which bodes well for their approach, but that executions, and probably inexperience, weighs against them to produce full 80-minute showings.

This, added with some individual prowess in the Kings’ camp, are positive signs to pocket for an ever-growing franchise looking to finally cement some sort of foundation, and what they need to achieve is to find a sense of team identity to blueprint onto their performances.

The Kings still evidently lack precision, and the ability to read their oppositions and the game-plays, which will be bolstered with more experience and a sifting of more individual talent into the mix.

Many critiques, specifically Europeans, have been quick to downplay this ‘hapless’ Kings side, but the EC side has managed to rise from the ashes before, and can do so again – it will just be a matter of time.

The team should use this two week break, as a window for introspection before the season unravels further next week when they meet the high-flying and unbeaten Glasgow Warriors in Scotland – and hopefully for players and supporters alike, they could learn to start righting their wrongs and sustaining their few rights.