Kings turn boys into men

George Byron

IF they are good enough then they are old enough is a maxim the rookie Southern Kings are putting to the test this season as they battle to make their mark in Super Rugby. Powerful 20-year-old Siviwe “Shakes” Soyizwapi has offered further proof that the Southern Kings are a vibrant franchise whose rookie players are improving with every game.

After being thrown in at the deep end, Soyizwapi passed his first Super Rugby test with flying colours when he starred in the Southern Kings heart-stopping 28-28 draw against the Brumbies.

With a vital match against the Rebels looming in Melbourne on Saturday, the Kings and their talented brigade of “young guns” are making a big impression on the international stage.

The 20-year-old former Border Bulldogs junior star gave a polished display which earned him high praise from Kings head coach Matt Sexton.

“We had some late changes to things and Shakes came on and played admirably,” Sexton said.

“He was fresh off the plane for us this week so he hasn’t had time to really find his feet, but despite that he played really well.”

Sexton said Soyizwapi, along with Sergeal Petersen and Rynier Bernardo, who had all come through the Kings Academy, were true testament to the local talent in the province.

Soyizwapi flew to join the Kings after Hadleigh Parkes broke his arm against the Hurricanes.

Soyizwapi was originally on the bench but after Elric van Vuuren sprained his ankle during the training he moved up to start at fullback after concerns around Demetri Catrakilis’s knee during the warm-up saw him move to the bench and George Whitehead move to flyhalf.

“We had some late changes and Shakes came on and played admirably.” Sexton was also full of praise for Wimpie van der Walt, whose performance earned the him the Man of the Match title against the Brumbies.

“Wimpie had a huge game,” Sexton said.

“He inserted himself into a lot of mid-sections of Brumbies players and they all went off licking their wounds,” he said.

Sexton also commented on the fact that the Kings were able to draw with just 37% possession during the game, and being one man down for 10 minutes near the end of the second half after Schalk Ferreira was given a yellow card in the 67th minute. He attributed the achievement to the heart of the team, their defence and conditioning.

“It’s a massive testament to what the conditioning staff have done over the off season.” Sexton said

“You get put under a lot of strain when you are a man down at that late stage – but the guys were still fine. They are a fit side and they have worked really hard over the off-season to get to peak condition. Coupled that came some massive defence,” he said.

The Kings have now turned their attention to Saturday’s showdown against the Melbourne Rebels and their performance against the table-topping Brumbies has injected new confidence into the rookie team.

On the combined log, the Rebels are in 12th spot after managing to win only two of their opening seven games. That puts them only three points ahead of the Kings, who have played one match fewer.

Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons said his team would not be underestimating the Rebels and he described them as a “desperate outfit who want to get their season back on track.”

The weekend fixtures are:

Friday: Highlanders v Brumbies Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, 09:35.

Saturday: Chiefs v Reds at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton 06:35; Blues v Hurricanes at Eden Park, Auckland 09:35; Rebels v Southern Kings at AAMI Park, Melbourne 11:40; Force v Crusaders at NIB Stadium, Perth 13:45; Stormers v Sharks at DHL Newlands, Cape Town, 17:05; Bulls v Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria 19:10.

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