SOUTHERN Kings rugby boss Cheeky Watson is confident his team can avoid a Super Rugby promotion-relegation dogfight against the Lions at the end of the season after they beat the Highlanders 34-27 on Saturday.
“This win shows the character this team have and which we always knew they had,” an emotional Watson said after the highly-charged clash in front of 19000 fans at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Asked if the victory had given the Kings hope of climbing off the foot of the log and avoiding a bitter promotion dogfight against the Lions, Watson said he remained confident.
“We can absolutely avoid that game. Nothing is out of the window and we have the possibility of hitting the finishing line. This win helps us tremendously,” Watson said.
Though the Kings are still at the bottom of the South African conference – with 20 points from 11 outings – they have closed the gap on the Sharks and Stormers.
The struggling Sharks are second from the bottom with 29 points from 11 outings while the Stormers have 30 points from a match fewer.
The team who finish at the bottom of the log will have to defend their right to play Super Rugby with a double-header promotion match at the end of the season.
“This win sends out a message to all the doomsayers out there who have criticised the team,” Watson said. “Our executive fought tooth and nail to bring Super Rugby here. It is vital that people come out and support the team.”
Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons said plans were in place if a promotion-relegation match materialised.
“We have sat down and strategised about that and we have our plans in place,” Solomons said.
“Our approach has been to go game by game and we will now look ahead to the Cheetahs,” he said.
The Kings were set on their path to victory against the Highlanders by skipper Luke Watson, who scored two tries in a commanding display.