Kings the bright spot in a sombre weekend for SA teams

2013-05-13 00:00

THE Southern Kings were left to fly the South African flag on Saturday evening as the Cheetahs, Stormers and Sharks suffered significant Super Rugby defeats earlier in the weekend.

The Kings, led by a fired-up Luke Watson and just a week after suffering a thumping 72-10 home defeat to the Waratahs, bounced back with a 34-27 win over the Highlanders in Port Elizabeth.

But the Bulls, enjoying the weekend off and picking up four points for the bye, were the real beneficiaries as they increased their lead over the Cheetahs, Sharks and Stormers in the South African conference.

The Sharks, against the Reds in Brisbane, and Cheetahs, against the Hurricanes in Bloemfontein, both lost on Friday, while the Stormers went down 21-15 to a late Waratahs’ try in Sydney on Saturday.

The Cheetahs (36) are now five points behind the Bulls (41) in the South African conference while the Stormers (30) and Sharks (29), following their weekend losses, have dropped to 10th and 11th on the log and they are almost certainly out of the running.

Sharks coach John Plumtree said the players were acutely aware how important Friday’s game against the Force in Perth would be.

“We don’t want to be getting on the plane home without a win,” he said after the Sharks lost their fifth successive game against the Reds.

He said the players were lacking in confidence after the series of defeats, which has seen them disintegrate from South African conference leaders to also-rans in the space of a month.

“I hope that most people can see we are still trying our best. But it [the self-doubt] has become a vicious circle and it becomes worse with every defeat.”

Injuries, patchy form and a lack of leadership and continuity have all contributed to the current malaise and another disappointing Super Rugby campaign.

In contrast, the Kings have surprised friend and foe, and on Saturday picked up their third win of the season.

Watson, back as captain after an extended injury break, scored two tries from driving mauls in another brave Kings’ showing. Flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis’ accurate goalkicking (four conversions and two penalties) was ultimately the difference between the two sides as the Highlanders’ Colin Slade missed three relatively easy kicks at goal.

The bonus-point victory over bottom-place Highlanders lifted the Kings above Force to 13th on the combined standings with five games to play.

“We showed character and courage to bounce back after the performances of the past three weeks,” Watson said later.

The Highlanders, victors over the Sharks the previous weekend, were less than pleased with the refereeing of South African referee Jason Jaftha, but they also frittered away chances to score points.

The Stormers also showed character and courage, but only in defence, and their poor attack cost them victory against the Waratahs. Largely ignoring the four Springboks among their outside backs, the Stormers again looked to their excellent defence and penalties for victory. They have managed just 17 tries in 10 outings, the lowest strike rate in the competition, and even the struggling Sharks have scored 22 and the Kings 21.

The Stormers almost got away with their one-dimensional approach as fullback Joe Pietersen landed all five of his penalty attempts for a 15-11 lead, but league convert Israel Folau ran into a yawning gap left by Stormers wing Bryan Habana for the crucial try three minutes from time before a penalty after the final hooter sealed the Waratahs’ win.

Adding to the Stormers’ woes were the knee injuries to backrowers Rynhardt Elstadt and Duane Vermeulen, who are now on their way home. Western Province’s Gerbrandt Grobler is flying over as a replacement. Both Elstadt and Vermeulen limped off in the final 10 minutes.

“Both Rynhardt and Duane will be out for six to eight weeks — both suffered medial collateral ligament injuries,” Stormers coach Allister Coetzee confirmed yesterday. “It’s a massive blow for us at this stage of the season.”

The Rebels, who face the Stormers in Melbourne this weekend, gave the Blues a nasty fright in Auckland before losing 36-32. The Blues led comfortably 29-10 at half-time, but then lost their focus and the Rebels outscored the Blues 22-7 in the second half.

Jake White’s Brumbies, after their weekend bye, still head the overall log.


Waratahs 21 – Tries: Cam Crawford, Israel Folau. Conversion: Berrick Barnes. Penalties: Brendan McKibbin (2), Barnes. Stormers 15 – Penalties: Joe Pietersen (5).

Southern Kings 34 – Tries: Luke Watson (2), Cornell Du Preez, Shaun Venter. Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis (4). Penalties: Catrakilis (2). Highlanders 27 – Try: Colin Slade, Brad Thorn, Shaun Treeby, Hosea Gear. Conversions: Slade (2). Penalty: Slade.

Other results: Blues 36 Rebels 32

Played Friday

Chiefs 22 Force 21

Reds 32 Sharks 17

Cheetahs 34 Hurricanes 39

Byes: Brumbies, Bull, Crusaders.


Friday: Hurricanes v Chiefs 9.35 am

Rebels v Stormers 11.40 am

Force v Sharks 1.45 pm.

Saturday: Crusaders v Blues 9.35 am

Waratahs v Brumbies 11.40 am

Bulls v Highlanders 5.05 pm

Cheetahs v Reds 7.10 pm

Bye: Kings.

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