The Southern Kings have had an awesome Super Rugby season – the best ever in this century.
Playing only for pride in front of 10 015 spectators against the Cheetahs at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth last night, both teams played their last games in Super Rugby for the foreseeable future.
Coming off of a high with two monumental wins – albeit by ONE point each – against the Jaguares in Argentina and the Bulls at Loftus Versveld the Southern Kings, with six wins to the Cheetahs three in Super Rugby, were certainly the favourites to continue their winning streak and pull off an incredible third beating of a fellow South African side in Super Rugby.
But for the ‘Should’ve, Could’ve, Would’ve‘ the Southern Kings would have pulled it off and flipped an even bigger bird to Super Rugby.
As an old Rugger Bugger from the days when a point was a point the Southern Kings had TWO ‘Should’ve, Could’ve, Would’ve‘ moments that were their undoing:
- A certain three point penalty in front of the posts was shrugged off to chase a seven pointer – and was unsuccessful
- A botched conversion in FRONT of the posts saw a vital two points slip away.
The final score was heart achingly telling of the arrogance of the Kings attempting to go for greater glory rather than taking the (almost) sure points on offer from a penalty and time taken on a hasty conversion attempt. The Cheetahs ran out 21-20 winners at the final whistle.
In a game almost entirely dominated by the Cheetahs the Southern Kings played immensely well with great runs, support and defense out of the top drawer. If only ‘Should’ve, Could’ve, Would’ve‘ did not factor in their thinking we would have finished the season confounding the pundits, flipping the bird to Super Rugby, gaining more fans and securing greater salary bargaining power for those about to leave the Southern Kings.
The first notable in the game was referee Egon Seconds TMO viewing of a try by Makazole Mapimpi – it must have been the longest viewing of a TMO in the history of the game! Southern Kings wing, Makazole Mapimpi, skidded over the tryline in the corner shrugging off the attention of several Cheetahs defenders. The try was only awarded after referee Egon Seconds viewed it more than several times on the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium big screen. Then followed the only successful conversion of the evening by Lionel Cronje from the corner, putting the Southern Kings in the lead 7-3 – a lead which they retained right up until the 74th minute when a penalty by Neil Marais sealed the Kings fate and the Cheetahs won 21-20.
The second notable in the game was the consternation in the Media Rotunda after Wandile Mjekevu dove over to take the Kings to 12 points in the 34th minute. As Cronje hurriedly stepped up to what should have been a ridiculously easy conversion just right of the uprights the gathered scribes put their heads down and updated their score to reflect as 14-3. Looking up from their laptops/paper/smartphones incredulous looks were cast towards the giant screen scoreboard which reflected the score as 12-3 and NOT the expected 14-3. Even respected online rugby scorers had the score as 14-3. Much discussion took place with most not trusting the local scoreboard (shame on you all!) until the realisation finally set in that our Golden Boy had actually missed a sitter.
“We fought hard, we went ahead and were comfortable, but I think our discipline let us down,” Kings captain Lionel Cronje said in a post-match interview. “No-one can take away what we have accomplished this year and I’m just really proud of the crowd that came out to support us. “It’s been a phenomenal season for us and we played a positive brand of rugby. It’s the best season we have had as the Kings, so I guess it’s a fitting way to end off.”
Cheetahs Captain, Francois Venter said of his sides move to Pro 12 competition that starts in September; “We see it as a great opportunity, it’s going to come with different challenges,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a lot like tonight with the (wet) conditions. Everybody is excited to go see how it is there.”
At the conclusion of the Super Rugby season the Cheetahs have won four of their 14 matches and the Southern Kings had won six.
Southern Kings 20 (12) – Tries: Makazole Mapimpi (19th minute), Wandile Mjekevu (35th minute), Giant Mtyanda (43rd minute). Conversion: Lionel Cronje (19th minute). Penalty: Lionel Cronje (62nd minute)
Cheetahs 21 (3) – Tries: Clinton Swart (67th minute), Raymond Rhule (69th minute). Conversion: Neil Marais (69th minute). Penalties: Fred Zeilinga (5th and 51st minutes), Neil Marais (74th minute)
Southern Kings: 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronje (captain), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Mzamo Majola. Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Irne Herbst/Mzwanele Zito, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Rudi van Rooyen, 22 Masixole Banda, 23 Waylon Murray/Yaw Penxe
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche. Replacements: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Armandt Koster, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Chris Dry, 22 Ruan van Rensburg, 23 Niel Marais
About that move to Pro12 / Pro14:
It said that television money, believed to have increased by €12 million, paved the way for the discarded Super Rugby franchises, the Cheetahs and Southern Kings, to enter a newly expanded Pro 14 championship.
Southern Kings players that will be leaving the franchise include: Lionel Cronje (Toyota Verblitz), Louis Schreuder and Tyler Paul (Sharks), Irne Herbst (Benneton Treviso), Schalk van der Merwe (Ulster), Makazole Mapimpi (Cheetahs) and Chris Cloete (Munster) will be leaving. Malcolm Jaer has been linked to the Cheetahs while it has been reported that the Stormers are eager to sign Kings flank CJ Velleman. The Pumas have announced that Thembelani Bholi, Stefan Ungerer, Neil Maritz and Cameron Lindsay would be joining them.
So once again Eastern Province Rugby will have to start again from scratch building a team.
Up North the pundits don’t seem to think much of the Southern Kings and Cheetahs joining the Pro12/Pro14 with comments like:
- “The Pro12 isn’t risking anything with what is an interesting experiment. If it comes off it will be great for the competition, the Cheetahs and Kings, but time will determine if it’s a success or failure.”
- “There are huge logistical challenges to be overcome with the inclusion of two more teams who are operating in a different hemisphere, at least half-a-day’s travel away from the rest of the teams in a league that is not awash with money.”
On 14 July 2017 the Irish Rugby Football Union (organisers of the Pro12) reported a deficit of €2.8m which came in under their initial projection of €4.7m.
The 12 teams presently in the Pro12:
- Ireland – Connacht
- Ireland – Leinster
- Ireland – Munster
- Ireland – Ulster
- Italy – Benetton Treviso
- Italy – Zebre
- Scotland – Edinburgh
- Scotland – Glasgow Warriors
- Wales – Cardiff Blues
- Wales – Dragons
- Wales – Ospreys
- Wales – Scarlets
Since the first season on 2001/02 the champions have come from Ireland (9 wins), Wales (5 wins) and Scotland (1 win).
Last season’s 2016-17 champions were Scarlets from Wales.
Official website: http://www.pro12rugby.com/