Who Are The Southern Kings? – A Closer Look At Leinster’s Opponents This Weekend
Louis van Schalkwyk
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Kings landing, albeit head-first.
When the Southern Kings were formed in 2009, most rugby fans in South Africa found the name rather presumptuous. However their short history reads somewhere between a fantasy novel and a report from a social worker.
Young King was conceived out of necessity to a region crying out for a hero. He was born into a tumultuous reality and a negligent parent (All I can tell you is that he is rather a cheeky fellow) rendering the young hopeful cast out from competition. Once this unfortunate state of affairs came to light, the authorities (South African Rugby Union) stepped in and removed young King from his unfit overlord. They addressed immediate concerns regarding the health and welfare of young King and placed him in the care of a mentor, who himself was an undiscovered diamond in the rough.
Fast forward to the 2017 Super Rugby season and this rag-tag group of rugby mercenaries, whose story most thought would end in tragedy, has advanced rather well. Following an expected shaky start, coach Deon Davids managed to accomplish in six months what some of the larger SA-unions are still trying to wrap their heads around – an effective, expansive game plan. This resulted in victories over Super Rugby giants the Waratahs, Sharks and former champions the Bulls, while also managing to brush aside the Rebels and newcomers the Jaguares (essentially Argentina’s national side) in the pressure-cooker which is Buenos Aires, no less. All of South African Rugby is currently undergoing an overhaul, and young King was one of the frontrunners with regards to pulling the entire engine-block out and starting over.
When they were given the boot at the end of the season, uncertainty about the future led to the exodus of quite a few key players. From the starting line-up alone both props, a lock, three loose forwards, the halfback-pairing and the prodigious pace man Makazole Mapimpi have all jumped ship. Not ideal when you’re trying to grow a team and your platform is pulled out from under you.
Back to square one it is then. Again.
Their entrance into the newly formed PRO14 has been all but flowery, and this weekend they host the formidable rugby powerhouse which is Leinster, who must surely be licking their chops in anticipation of starting their SA-tour with a full house of points on offer. They are a daunting prospect to any side. While the benefits of home ground advantage varies for each team, the Nelson Mandela Bay (formerly Port Elizabeth) faithful are a different beast altogether. They come out in force like the Golden Horde and somehow manage to lift these players to well above their normal capabilities. Rest assured the Kings will be throwing everything including the kitchen sink at the Irish behemoth in an attempt to capitalise on their maiden home fixture and all we as fans of the game can do is hope that they remain consistent in this as a fierce contest is much more pleasing to the eye than a one sided affair.
The Kings are very much like the French sides of old. They struggle in matches they are expected to win, but when things click into place they can be more than a handful and if there’s one team that knows how to claw its way back from nothing, it’s this one.
May the crown land on the head of the king who is most deserving.