Post match press conference after the Southern Kings historic first win (35-32) against a South African team – the Cell C Sharks – in the Super Rugby competition.
All the armchair pundits said it time and time again; “The Southern Kings are no-hopers with no sponsors, no stars and no ability!”
What they conveniently forgot was that the Eastern Province has seen great rugby talent being bought out of the region for too many years to count. What happens when you are nasty to the one that feeds you? Eventually you get a spanking.
The frontier mentality of the Eastern Province took a while to orchestrate that spanking and eventually signal it’s intent to continue on Saturday evening at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
Fresh from two wins against overseas teams – 44-3 against the Rebels on 29 April (at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth) and 26-24 against the 2014 champions, the Waratahs (at the Allianz Stadium, Sydney) – the Southern Kings were seeking their maiden win against a South African side after 19 starts since entering the competition in 2013.
Mindful of just how close the Sharks 19-17 win against the Southern Kings was on 19 March 2017 in Durban, the Sharks brought their A Team to battle on the Southern Kings home turf.
A massive campaign to #FillOurStadium in the week leading up to the game saw 21 096 people attending the game with most supporting the Southern Kings. At the post match press conference Southern Kings Coach Deon Davids expressed the teams thanks for all the support and agreed that it was a great motivator in assisting the Southern Kings with their historic maiden win against a South African side in Super Rugby.
The final nail biting minutes went down like this:
The Sharks were leading 32-28 with three minutes to go when the Southern Kings laid siege to their line.
First they came close with one lineout drive set up by a penalty and then they launched another frenzied assault with a second.
The Sharks had to dig deep to repel the onslaught as the crowd got in behind their team, and then with the referee’s arm signalling penalty advantage to the motivated home team, the forwards went close to the line a couple more times before the ball was spun down the line and Pieter-Steyn De Wet held onto the pass that put him in with a clear run at the left corner.
There was little more than a minute left once Kings skipper Lionel Cronje had kicked an important conversion that made it impossible for the Sharks to win with a kick, and then there was some agony for the Kings coaching staff as they watched a couple of scrums get reset after the hooter before eventually the Kings were awarded a free kick.
Southern Kings captain Lionel Cronje kicked the ball into the crowd and the celebrations started.
Southern Kings CEO, Charl Crous was overjoyed remarking; “This is the most historic win for this franchise ever.”
Personally – I have been stomping the sidelines since 2006 in the days of the Mighty Elephants and at times when there were often more media present than spectators. I have witnessed the resurgence of the EP Side as they moved to the new stadium and imported expensive coaches whilst promising the world. Every year my fellow scribes and I look at each other and ask the questions; “Is this the year? Will we die not knowing what it is like to win a major match – let alone a major competition?”
Now we need to congratulate an unassuming coach who has delivered the goods with a team labeled as no-hopers and essentially made up of young to old South African rugby players who have either been ignored or thrown by the wayside by the bigger franchises. But over the last few months this group of players have shown not only that they belong in Super Rugby but also that they have that frontier ‘never say die’ spirit to ensure a gutsy win.
But, you are only as good as your last game and the upcoming one on Saturday in Port Elizabeth against the Brumbies may be the Southern Kings chance to show just how well they have improved. Before last night most Southern Kings fans would have been hoping for a ‘good showing’ against the Brumbies. But, today, most will be quietly optimistic for a win, especially with the knowledge that the Kings have now beaten the Sharks who beat the Brumbies this year.
Saturday’s 19h30 clash promises to be the battle of the 19 pointers as both teams are on 19 points after 10 games apiece. the Southern Kings have now won four (Sunwolves, Rebels, Waratahs and Sharks) and lost six, whilst the Brumbies have won three and lost six. Oddly enough the Brumbies are on top of the Australian Conference with their 19 points whilst the Southern Kings still occupy the bottom of the Africa Conference 2 with their 19 points but still ahead of the Bulls (15 points), Cheetahs (11 points) and Sunwolves (7 points) in Africa Conference 1.
Could we see the Bulls and Cheetahs facing the axe from Super Rugby in 2018?
Oddly enough the Brumbies also shrugged off the title of ‘rejects’ which they picked up after being formed in 1996 to provide a third Australian franchise for the newly formed Super 12 (now Super Rugby) competition. It was predicted that the Brumbies, made up of so-called ‘reject’ – players not wanted by the other two teams – would perform poorly. Since then, they have enjoyed more success than all the other Australian teams combined, reaching six finals (1997, 2000, 2002 and 2013) and winning two in 2001 and 2004.
The Brumbies lost to the Cell C Sharks (27-22) on 4 March 2017 at the Gio Stadium and of course a win for the Southern Kings against the Brumbies will be a huge shot across the bows of the Lions who beat the Brumbies 13-6 at the Gio Stadium, Canberra on 13 May 2017.
The Southern Kings historic win will be remembered for years to come by the PEople of Port Elizabeth.
Now to see if a sponsor will come to the fore!
Southern Kings 35 (18) – Tries: Ashaun Bock 2, Lionel Cronje and Pieter-Steyn de Wet; Conversions: Lionel Cronje 3; Penalties: Lionel Cronje 2; Drop-goal: Lionel Cronje.
Cell C Sharks 32 (16) – Tries: Daniel du Preez and Lwazi Mvovo; Conversions: Patrick Lambie and Garth April; Penalties: Patrick Lambie 2 and Garth April 3.
Southern Kings: 15. Maxisole Banda, 14. Alshaun Bock, 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. Irne Herbst, 3. Ross Geldenhuys, 2. Martin Bezuidenhout, 1. Schalk van der Merwe. Replacements: 16. Kurt Haupt/Tanga Balekile, 17. Chris Heiberg, 18. Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19. Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20. Stefan Willemse, 21. Johan Steyn, 22. Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 23. Nicolaas Hanekom.
Cell C Sharks: 15. Rhyno Smith, 14. Kobus van Wyk, 13. Kukhanyo Am, 12. Jeremy Ward, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Pat Lambie (captain), 9. Michael Claassens, 8. Dan du Preez, 7. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Philip van der Walt, 5. Ruan Botha, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 2. Franco Marais, 1. Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16. Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17. Thomas du Toit, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Stephan Lewies, 20. Tera Mtembu, 21. Cobus Reinach, 22. Garth April, 23. S’busiso Nkosi.
A clearly disappointed Sharks Coach, Robert du Preez makes a hasty exit from the post match conference after the Sharks 35-21 loss to the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday 13 May 2017.