Cape Town - Deon Davids surely has the most unenviable job in South African rugby. The Kings coach only had his squad finalised last month and now he must have them prepared for a tournament in which they will play all five New Zealand franchises. The Kings, quite simply, are a shambles. Financial troubles have all but destroyed the union, and SARU has had to step in and salvage the situation by contracting a group of players in an attempt to form a Super Rugby squad. As a result, not much is expected to come out of Port Elizabeth this season results-wise. It is not the fault of the players, though, and they will be giving their all.
Coach: Deon Davids
Captain: Steven Sykes
Last season: n/a
Grouped with: Sharks, Lions, Jaguares
Potential strengths: The only good thing to come out of this is that the Eastern Cape now has a Super Rugby franchise. How it happened is not ideal, but the fact that it has happened is perhaps most important. On the field, the Kings have nothing to lose. None of the critics are expecting them to achieve anything, and they are expected to fight it out with the Sunwolves for last spot on the combined log. That means that they can approach every game without fear, which could work in their favour.
Potential weaknesses: Well, where do we start? This squad was thrown together at the last-minute and is well short on pre-season preparation. Super Rugby is a long season, and unless sides are conditioned properly they will hurt. The Kings, unfortunately, are nowhere near prepared enough and are likely to run out of gas before the other sides.
Players to watch: Steven Sykes is 31-years-old and his Super Rugby experience will prove vital. In him, the Kings at least have a leader that does not come with the baggage of a Luke Watson. The Kings also boast Schalk Ferreira in the front row, while there are also a couple of exciting players in their backline. Keep an eye on flyhalf Elgar Watts, in particular.
Realistic aim: The Kings are in a tough group. If they could get a few wins under the belt and steer clear of being the worst side in the competition, it will surely be a success.
Players contracted by SARU: Thembelani Bholi, Tom Botha, Aidon Davis, JP du Plessis, Jacques Engelbrecht, Schalk Ferreira, Louis Fouché, Shane Gates, Siyanda Grey, James Hall, Cornell Hess, Malcolm Jaer, Kevin Luiters, Edgar Marutlulle, Tyler Paul, Sipato Junior Pokomela, Steven Sykes, Cyril-John Velleman, Elgar Watts, Stefan Watermeyer, Stefan Willemse
First fixture: February 27, Sharks (h)