Rugby’s first-ever GUINNESS PRO14 Championship match to be contested at the Wolfson Stadium in Kwazakhele on Saturday produced a 12-try thriller that had the crowd on the edge of their seats right until the very last minute but, unfortunately, ended in a narrow 36-43 defeat for the Southern Kings by Irish visitors, Ulster.
The Kings led 22-10 at the break courtesy of a try each by Burton Klaasen, Yaw Penxe and Michael Makase – the latter a long-range individual effort that needed TMO confirmation.
A strong Ulster comeback resulted in a frenetic second-half and, despite Klaasen and Penxe each dotting down again, it was a 75th minute try for Ulster by former Western Province number 8 Robbie Diack that finally settled matters in their favour 43-36. The result means that the Kings pick up their first bonus points of the season – 1 for scoring 4 tries and 1 for losing by 7 points or less.
Coach Deon Davids admitted after the game that he thought it was a match that “the Kings had lost rather than that Ulster had won” and bemoaned a few basic errors by his side. “There was a lot that we did well today but to make the step up to the next level requires every kick to be sound as well as every pass and every catch. These are fundamentals that have to be in place and that we have to get right. We scored some great tries today but then often immediately conceded gain due to poor basics. Instead of being way out in front and forcing Ulster to play catch-up rugby we allowed them to stay in the game. We should have buried them early on and we did not – that came back to hurt us,” said Coach Davids. He added that his focus during the course of the next two weeks, before the Kings next fixture against Scarlets, would be very much on fundamental skills and conditioning work but stressed that the disappointment of the loss to Ulster should not deflect from the positives of the Kings’ performance. “We were very good at turning pressure in the opposition 22 into points so that was pleasing to see. A number of youngsters making their debut today also put up their hands and showed they can compete at this level – Michael Makase’s try, for example, ” he said.
Kings captain Schalk Ferreira offered similar thoughts. “In previous games we have started slowly but this time we got off to a flyer and did not take full advantage of our early dominance. It is our aim to get better with every game and I think we are definitely doing that but tiny errors cost us this time. It was not lack of effort or attitude but it does feel frustrating because we know we had it in us to beat Ulster” he said.
Commenting on the experience of playing this match at the township venue of Wolfson Stadium, Ferreira was effusive: “I absolutely loved it. When we go play overseas we play in tiny venues where the crowd is all against us so if we can get an advantage by bringing games closer to the community where we can connect with our people and put the opposition out of their comfort zone then I’m all for it.”
Dr Clement Plaatjies, Kings team Doctor gave his medical report, “Saturday’s thrilling 12-try GUINNESS PRO14 clash at the Wolfson Stadium between the Kings and Ulster has left the home side with a potential headache at scrumhalf as both Rudi Van Rooyen and his replacement Rowan Gouws sustained injuries during the encounter. Van Rooyen had been concussed during the match while Gouws had sustained a Grade 1 sprain to his right ankle. Rudi’s injury is the more serious of the two, he is still experiencing headaches and neck spasms and only once he is symptom-free for a week will we be able to start with his return-to-play protocol. In Rowan’s case we’ve decided to give him a week off from training and are confident that should be enough to see him ready and available for selection for the next match against Scarlets on the 26th,” said Dr Plaatjies
Loose-head prop and stand-in captain Schalk Ferreira has also been excused from training this week due to a contusion to his right thigh but Dr Plaatjies stressed that this was just precautionary. “Schalk has put in plenty of minutes of playing time this season and worked extremely hard so he deserves some time off. He will be ready for Scarlets,” said the doctor
The only other concern for the Kings medical team was loose-forward Andisa Ntsila who is carrying a niggling knee injury. “It does not seem major but it has been bothering him for a while so we decided to have a scan done on it and will be able to report back once we have seen the results,” said Dr Plaatjies
On the plus side, Dr Plaatjies reported that flyhalf Martin Du Toit, who sustained a concussion against Glasgow Warriors a fortnight ago, had recovered and been symptom-free for a week and was thus due to resume training on Thursday. “If he comes through that unscathed then he will be available for the match against Scarlets,” Dr Plaatjies added
“Michael Willemse was diagnosed with a tear in his groin muscles that should set him out for about two months, worse case scenario. It is an injury he sustained during the Glasgow Warriors game. He is doing well at the moment and we expect him back early January next year, Dr Plaatjies reported.
The Southern Kings take on Scarlets on Sunday, 26 November, kick off at 15:00.