Nuts and bolts in place for Southern Kings’ 2013 Super Rugby debut, says coach

2012-07-11 00:00

CAPE TOWN — South Africa’s newest Super Rugby franchise, the Southern Kings, say they are ready to go and will be competitive in next year’s competition.

According to the All Blacks’ website, the Kings will bring a long-standing rugby tradition to the competition after significant preparation work achieved under former Springbok assistant coach Alan Solomons, who also coached in Ulster and Northampton.

The side will be coached by former Crusaders hooker Matt Sexton, who takes up the position today, while the region’s rugby academy is headed former Springboks Robbie Kempson and De Wet Barry.

After a period of neglect since the advent of professional rugby, the game in the Eastern Cape has been rebuilt under Cheeky Watson.

Solomons said: “There was no professional rugby and no Currie Cup premier rugby, but all the time that senior rugby was regressing, schools rugby remained very strong, as it is today.

“The feeder system has always been there, but there was nowhere local for top players to go, so they moved on to the glamour provinces in this country.”

The return of the region began with a game against the 2009 British and Irish Lions, by a side coached by Solomons. Watson and Solomons then worked together to get a start in Super Rugby, a start that was initially set for 2011 but then changed to next year.

“There were no structures in place. There was nothing going on. I had no administration staff, no facilities, no ancillary departments,” Solomons said.

“We were the antithesis of the professional unions in this country.

“Today we have all the nuts and bolts in place for a truly professional rugby department.”

The side will be based at the well-equipped Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth and its numbers will be recruited initially.

The recruitment will be based on a small core of existing players, including Luke Watson, players coming off contracts overseas and South African players coming off contracts.

Solomons said “eyebrows will be raised” when the signings were confirmed.

“We have a twofold strategy at the Kings to get our rugby to the very top, and it very much involves the academy. Firstly, we have to develop high-performance rugby from the top down because we have not had top-flight rugby, but at the same time we will transform the union from the bottom up through the academy. We will build from within,” Solomons said.

Watson said that while buying a team for 2013 was not ideal, it was necessary to get started.

“Ideally, you want to produce your own team and grow from within, and when you see how our talent is flourishing for other teams, the long-term future of the Kings is guaranteed because our schoolboy stars will now mostly choose to stay at home,” he said.

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