Kings prove that they be­long

Win over the Bulls shows their Su­per Rugby ex­pul­sion is pre­ma­ture, harsh

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - VATA NGOBENI

JUST A day af­ter their ex­pected ex­clu­sion from Su­per Rugby, the South­ern Kings achieved their crown­ing mo­ment in the com­pe­ti­tion by record­ing yet an­other his­toric vic­tory when they beat the Bulls 31-30 at Lof­tus Vers­feld on Satur­day evening.

It was a vic­tory for the un­der­dog, a vic­tory for a team not deemed good enough but more than any­thing it was a moral vic­tory for rugby and the fu­ture of the Kings up north.

The Kings have de­fied the logic that they, along with the Chee­tahs, are the weak­est sides in South Africa and are de­serv­ing of the prover­bial axe that fell on them on Fri­day and in­stead planted the seed of doubt on whether it was a wise de­ci­sion to leave them out of the south­ern hemi­sphere’s pre­mier com­pe­ti­tion.

But typ­i­cal of the re­silience the Kings have shown this sea­son in de­fy­ing the odds and beat­ing the Sun­wolves, Waratahs, Jaguares and Bulls away from home in­clud­ing a maiden vic­tory against a South African side with a win over the Sharks in Port El­iz­a­beth, Deon Davids’ men are al­ready look­ing to a new dawn in their rugby with the like­li­hood of them play­ing in a new north­ern hemi­sphere com­pe­ti­tion.

Kings cap­tain Lionel Cronje, the man who has been at the heart of the Kings re­vival and all con­quer­ing spirit, says it was never about prov­ing their worth in the com­pe­ti­tion but rather about get­ting self-re­spect for them­selves as in­di­vid­u­als and as a team.

“This whole sea­son has been to play for the self-re­spect and to get the re­spect of the play­ers around you and to earn the re­spect and show your worth to your­self be­fore you can worry about ex­ter­nal fac­tors that you have no con­trol over. It is what it is, there is noth­ing we can do about it. We can only look for­ward to it like we have looked for­ward to this Su­per Rugby cam­paign when it started out.

“We can’t be neg­a­tive about it, we have to be pos­i­tive about it. It is a new ven­ture and there are a lot of pos­i­tives that can come out of it and that is what we choose to fo­cus on.

“That is what our team is built on is be­ing pos­i­tive and en­joy­ing it and each other’s en­vi­ron­ment. What­ever cir­cum­stance or com­pe­ti­tion we will be in we are go­ing to look to be com­pet­i­tive and en­joy our rugby and play for each other,” Cronje said af­ter con­tribut­ing 21 points to his team’s win at Lof­tus.

But as the Kings look up north to prob­a­bly join the Pro12 and make it the Pro14 with the in­clu­sion of the Chee­tahs as well, they face an even more chal­leng­ing task of hav­ing to re­build their team with many of their star play­ers leav­ing the Port El­iz­a­beth-based fran­chise at the con­clu­sion of the Su­per Rugby sea­son.

While the un­cer­tainty of their fu­ture was at the heart of form­ing a close knit unit and be­ing the glue that binds the team, it was that very un­cer­tainty that led to many of the play­ers opt­ing to sign else­where to se­cure their fu­tures.

Cronje is head­ing to Ja­pan while the likes of star wing Maka­zole Mapimpi is go­ing to the Chee­tahs, flank Chris Cloete to the Pu­mas, scrumhalf Louis Schroeder to the Sharks, flank Tyler Paul to the Sharks, lock Irne Herbst and prop Dayaan van der Westhuizen back to the Bulls, leav­ing Davids with­out the spine of the team that has sent shock­waves through­out Su­per Rugby this year.

As heart­bro­ken as Davids will be at watch­ing his labour of love evap­o­rate into the Port El­iz­a­beth night next week­end af­ter their fi­nal game against the Chee­tahs, he re­mains con­fi­dent that he can again re­build the team, pro­duce new stars and be as com­pet­i­tive as the gi­ants of the north­ern hemi­sphere given the time and re­sources to do so.

“Ja un­for­tu­nately that is what is go­ing to hap­pen.

“I’ve never in my life, at this level, been able to work with a team for more than two sea­sons con­sec­u­tively.

“So it’s tough men­tally and phys­i­cally to start all over again and put things in place.

“But if it is a wor­thy cause and we can have the same re­sults as in the same sit­u­a­tion we’ve had then so be it, we must do it,” said Davids. SPLASH DOWN: Lionel Cronje of the Kings crashes through the Bulls de­fence to score a try dur­ing his side’s clash at Lof­tus on Satur­day. The Kings skip­per scored 21 points as the vis­i­tors won 31-30 against the three-time Su­per Rugby cham­pi­ons.

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