SOUTHERN Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons described Luke Watson’s leadership as “absolutely brilliant and inspirational” after he led his team to a 34-27 Super Rugby win over the Highlanders at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
After the Kings were hammered 72-10 by the Waratahs the previous weekend, Watson played a key role with two tries as they bounced back in dramatic style in front of 19000 ecstatic supporters.
“Luke was absolutely brilliant. He played outstandingly,” a delighted Solomons said. “This was the best he has played since he arrived back from England. His leadership was inspirational and all the players deserve a pat on the back.”
After being sidelined by a throat injury for a long spell at the start of the season, Watson signaled that he is going to be a key figure in the Kings’ remaining five matches. Besides his two tries after driving mauls, he was in the thick of the action as he kept the Highlanders on the back foot with his battering-ram assaults on their defence.
“We followed a strategy to get Luke back on the pitch. The scene was set for him today after he trained really hard and got himself fit. It was great to have him back at full tilt and that made a big difference,” Solomons said.
“After the Waratahs match, this was always going to be a little bit of a test of character. Our ID is that we are men of character and commitment and we felt we needed to show people and maintain that respect. That was an amazing performance.”
Kings head coach Matt Sexton said his team had shown what they were made of against the Highlanders.
“There was always going to be a reckoning [last] week,” Sexton said. “The boys really wanted to make sure they performed well and that was the result. Our set piece was solid and you can launch from that. When you have those building blocks in place, you can play.”
Hard-working Cornell du Preez went over for one of the Kings’ four tries and was named man of the match after delivering another high-quality performance in his debut season of Super Rugby.
The Highlanders, who remain bottom on the combined log after this defeat, fought back well in the last quarter of the game and they caused some problems for the Kings after the home team had opened a healthy 34-17 lead with just over 20 minutes to go. But the Kings defence held firm to clinch a third win of the season.
The Kings are back in action at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on May 25 against the Cheetahs.