Super Rugby

PE crowd helped Kings over the line

Lionel Cronje (Getty)
Lionel Cronje (Getty)

Port Elizabeth - The official match attendance at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday was 21 096 - comfortably the biggest crowd of the year for the Kings. 

And, according to both captain Lionel Cronje and coach Deon Davids, it was that support that helped them secure a memorable 35-32 victory over the Sharks. 

The Kings are all-of-a-sudden the talk of South African rugby. 

Saturday's result was their third consecutive victory and it is also the first time they have beaten South African opposition in Super Rugby. 

This resurgence may not save them from the chop next season as South Africa loses two of its Super Rugby franchises as part of SANZAAR's tournament restructuring, but regardless of what happens between now and the end of the season, the Kings have enjoyed their most successful campaign ever. 

Just a couple of hours before the Kings kicked off against the Sharks, the Bulls were involved in another loss at Loftus that was difficult to watch and was played in front of just over 4 000 people. 

Granted, the weather in Pretoria was horrible, but the difference was clear to see once the television footage cut from Loftus to PE. 

This Kings side is showing a passion, commitment and fight that is seemingly absent from some of the other South African franchises at the moment. 

On Saturday, it took a late try from substitute Pieter-Steyn de Wet to seal the win as the crowd erupted and the Sharks were stunned, and both Cronje and Davids said it was the fans who provided that spark for the players to pull off something special. 

"Home ground advantage should never be underestimated. It's just awesome to have the support we had tonight," Cronje said after the match.  

"For us it really was a clinical performance in those last five minutes to get over and that was credit to the supporters.

"I don't think we should deny that. It was really nice to come out and play in front of such an awesome stadium ... you could feel the buzz on the field."

Davids agreed, and he thanked the resident of PE who came out in their numbers.

"I must say thank you for everyone's support ... all the people of Port Elizabeth who came out to support us," he said.

"You can clearly see that in those last five minutes the support meant a lot to us and helped us over the line."

Davids said that he would allow the players and extra beer or two on Saturday night, while Cronje was clearly elated with a win against his former team.

"The guys are super stoked. This has been a phenomenal day and it's just nice that it's in favour of the Kings," Cronje said.

"The guys have fought so hard for this victory, to get over this hurdle of beating a South African side. We had two wins in a row, which was history, and now we've beaten a South African side. That's just credit to the guys.

"I think we have got to put teams under pressure at home with the support that we've got. We have to keep focused now, stay humble, keep our feet on the ground and keep having the fun that we've had."

The Kings will be hoping for another big crowd and another big performance when they host Australia's Brumbies in PE this Saturday. 

Kick-off is at 19:30.

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