Kings of the castle? Survival time
FAR AWAY from the boardrooms that have been a stumbling block since their inception, the Southern Kings have been hard at work in the pre-season not only to restore their dignity but to fight for survival in Super Rugby as well.
With speculation coming out of Sanzaar’s highest office that the future of the competition could be without two franchises of the current 18 teams, the Kings find themselves in a battle on many fronts to prove their worth and long-term sustainability.
However, adversity has been the life blood that has kept the Kings alive all these years and their resilience and fighting spirit will again be the cornerstone of their campaign.
For the first time since the beginning of last year, Kings coach Deon Davids has been able to get through an entire pre-season schedule and managed to squeeze in two friendlies – against neighbours Border Bulldogs (28-10) and the South Western Districts Eagles (42-25).
The Kings’ low key preparations could have something to do with their hectic travelling schedule at the beginning of the competition. They take on the Jaguares in Port Elizabeth in their first match, then travel to Singapore to face the Sunwolves and return home to play the Stormers followed by a short hop to Durban to face the Sharks.
“We have been training hard and it looks good on the training field. We need to convert all of that onto the playing field. We are ready. Our off-season was very good. We are on the right track,” said Kings utility back Siyanda Grey.
After enjoying a breakthrough season in the Kings’ first year of Super Rugby in 2013, Grey’s progress has been stunted by a string of career-threatening injuries but the former Grey High School pupil seems to be over his injuries and is looking at making a contribution to the Kings success this season. Grey will form part of a credible Kings squad that include the likes of Junior Springbok Wandile Mjekevu, former Stormers scrumhalf Louis Schreuder, former Bulls, Brumbies and Sharks flyhalf Lionel Cronjé and up-andcoming stars Chris Cloete, Thembelani Bholi, Malcolm Jaer and CJ Velleman, all of whom will look to improve the team’s fortunes from last year. “I can’t compare last year to this year. Everything is in place, and we are looking good,” said Grey.
“We have prepared well, and it has been good so far. We are focusing on winning our home games, more importantly. I do think we will do better.”
Davids will expect his side to do better as most of his squad members are likely to be fit and available for selection.
However, Velleman will remain on the sidelines until April as he recovers from a knee injury while prop Dayan van der Westhuizen looks set to miss out on the beginning of the season as he continues to undergo rehabilitation for a foot injury.
Irne Herbst, Cloete and Neil Maritz sustained concussions during training while flyhalf Pieter-Steyn de Wet sustained a concussion during the Kings’ win against the Eagles but are all likely to be fit ahead of next week’s season opener.
“We are fortunate not to have serious injuries after our pre-season matches. The four players who sustained concussions are making good progress as they go through the return-to-play protocol. At this stage we are hopeful that all the players will be available for our first Super Rugby match against the Jaguares,” team doctor Konrad von Hagen said.
Davids will name his team’s captain today with veteran prop Schalk Ferreira the frontrunner to lead the side. NOTHING will take away the disappointment of missing out on Super Rugby this year, and possibly never playing the game again, but at least Julian Redelinghuys will know everything he did in a Lions jersey in 2016 was appreciated.
The tighthead prop was last night named the union’s Player of the Year after stellar showings in Super Rugby, the Currie Cup and for the Springboks.
He will, however, sadly not be able to build on his consistent performances after a serious neck injury in the latter stages of the Currie Cup forced him out of the game for this year.
But after winning this award, Redelinghuys will be motivated to return to the game he loves so much.
“I’m extremely passionate about rugby,” he said in an interview with The Star recently.
The 27-year-old is slowly building up the strength in his neck and left arm after having surgery to fuse his vertebrae at C5 and 6 level.
He beat several equally deserving teammates, such as Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel, Warren Whiteley, Elton Jantjies and Rohan Janse van Rensburg to the union’s top award.
The Players’ Player of the Year award went to hooker Marx who is in line to become a national team regular this season, while the Supporters’ Player of the Year award went to promising centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg.
Super Rugby stalwarts, Mostert, Whiteley and Jantjies were all honoured for their contributions in helping the team reach the final for the first time, while Currie Cup stars Anthony Volmink, Ruan Ackermann and Jacques Nel picked up awards for their performances in the domestic competition. The Lions kick off their Super Rugby challenge against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein next Saturday. CURRIE CUP Forward: Ruan Ackermann; Backline: Anthony Volmink; Player of the Year: Jacques Nel SUPER RUGBY Forward: Franco Mostert; Backline: Elton Jantjies; Player of the Year: Warren Whiteley GOLDEN LIONS AWARDS Supporters’ Player of the Year: Rohan Janse van Rensburg; Players’ Player of the Year: Malcolm Marx; Player of the Year: Julian Redelinghuys