FRUSTRATED Southern Kings caretaker head coach Robbi Kempson says it is time his team learnt to “put the knife in” to get results after they slipped to a 19-12 defeat to the Lions in a Super Rugby friendly at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
“Chatting to the players afterwards, this was a game that we could have won. There is no question about that and they are disappointed. We are unhappy we let this one go,” Kempson said.
It was a second straight loss for the Kings, who slumped to a 36-21 loss to the Cheetahs at the same venue last week.
“Our perceptions need to start changing. Last year, in my opinion, we went into games where we did not think we could beat the opposition.
“I have told the players they can now get that out of their minds. We can be competitive at the very highest level, as we could have been today, but we missed opportunities.”
Kempson, a former Springbok prop, said he did not think it had been a good match.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann praised the solid defence of his players, who were faced with an adventurous Kings team who ran the ball.
“When the Kings broke the line the guys defended well. I was happy about that,” Ackermann said.
“In the first half we started much too slowly and the lineouts were terrible. The scrums went well, but the lineouts were a major problem,” Kempson said.
“But our stemming of the maul was better than last week so we have taken strides there. I was singing the praises of our flyhalf George Whitehead last week, but he did not have a good game today.
“Everyone could see his kicking out of hand was not great and he made quite a few errors regarding his decision making. But we did not give George a platform to launch off, particularly from the lineouts.
“I am unhappy about the result because we had opportunities to beat a Super Rugby side and we could actually have beaten them by not just one or two points.
“The Lions were not very good and I am sure their coach Johan Ackermann will admit that.
“It was the first time a lot of his players had a run out this year. Understandably the Lions will get better as time goes on.
“We are trying to build something here at the Kings and we have to take these opportunities and we have to make sure we put the knife in and get the result.”
Kempson said that his team gave away two soft tries because of shocking defence.
“Even though we did not have decent ball from set pieces we were in the game right up until the end. That we did not play to our potential and we were still in the game is a positive.
“But I do not think that is good enough any more. The crowds and critics are tired of hearing the same old things.”
Lions flanks Jaco Kriel and Derick Minnie scored tries in the first 15 minutes to set up what turned out to a hard-earned win for the visitors.
The Kings gave their supporters something to cheer about when wing Sergeal Petersen raced down the right touchline to score, to leave the Lions 14-5 ahead at the break.
Shortly after half-time, however, Petersen limped off the field with a knee injury.
Lions (19): Tries: Jaco Kriel, Derick Minnie, Robbie Coetzee. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (2).
Kings (12): Tries: Sergeal Petersen, penalty try. Conversion: George Whitehead (1).