Kings’ Super Rugby hopes fade

2013-08-04 14:00

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A missed kick last week proves to be Eastern Cape team’s undoing

Super Rugby will be coming back to Joburg but it could so nearly have evaded the Lions.

In the end, George Whitehead’s missed conversion last week was the two points that separated the Kings from another Super Rugby term. Trailing 18-9 until Lions’ centre Stokkies Hanekom was yellow carded in the 65th minute, it was going so swimmingly for the Lions.

They have entertained and they have thrilled, and South African rugby will be poorer in their absence. Sport is about fine margins and the penalty that did not find touch in the 78th minute was the gamebreaker.

The first half took on the shape of a boxing match, which has a peculiar scoring system.

If it were measured on punches landed, it was the Kings who would have won. They had the bigger pack, size wise, but the Lions have shown themselves to be street smart.

They certainly have not looked like a team that was banished from Super Rugby. What was missing from the Kings was the inaccuracy of Port Elizabeth, which was their ultimate downfall.

Their wising up was evident at how they competed at the breakdown, mindful of the fact that Jaco Kriel and Derick Minnie are expert ground scavengers.

With referee Stuart Berry notorious for being pernickety in his handling of the ruck, they were reliant on a quick cleanout. It earned the six points through Scott van Breda’s boot but it wasn’t long before the Lions had them figured out.

The visitors’ biggest error was to rely on strike runners, which the Lions snuffed out quite easily. One such offence led to a series of penalties, which led to a pushover try by Derick Minnie.

It was a short but very profitable period of dominance from the hosts. It punished the Kings for not making the most of the surfeit of possession they had in the early stages of the game. To be fair to the rock-solid Lions defence, they did not allow the Kings any try-scoring opportunities.

What hamstrung the Lions was Ross Cronje’s sluggish service from the base of ruck, which robbed them of crucial momentum when the Kings’ defence was reeling.

That meant the impressive Stokkies Hanekom did not see much of the ball. It was his two tries that killed the Kings in the first leg in Port Elizabeth.

Guy Cronje did a better job in the second half. It also gave Elton Jantjies a lease on proceedings that was missing in the first half.

There had to come a time when the Lions’ scrum came to bear and that was early in the second half. It was JC Janse van Rensburg’s last game for the Lions before departing for Europe and he put on a virtuoso performance.

Ellis Park was not exactly as packed as the Union exclaimed during the season but it was a very good crowd by their standards. Their ploy to sell tickets at R20 a pop may be what the cash and rugby starved Lions’ fans need.

The Lions continued their scrum power play but their rolling maul was a conspicuous failure. But with South African sides being well versed with the legalised obstruction, countering the maul comes as part of the package. When the shoe was on the other foot, the Lions did the same.

Just as they did in Port Elizabeth, the Kings faltered in the second half and Kriel benefited from some slack Kings defending. Having gone into the game needing to win by eight points or more, the win was blown from their sales.

They did not create much in terms of going forward, which neutered their forwards’ hard work.

But the Kings were not done. They scored in the 67th minute through Schalk Ferreira and while it did not show, the Lions were rattled. And when Scott van Breda crossed five minutes later, it was game on and the Lions were temporarily silenced.

But it was not enough and with Van Breda’s wayward kick, the Kings’ 2014 Super Rugby hopes faded.



Tries: Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel

Conversion: Elton Jantjies; Penalties: Jantjies (2)


Tries: Schalk Ferreira, Scott van Breda

Conversions: Van Breda (2)

Penalties: Van Breda (4)

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