EP KINGS head coach Carlos Spencer says his team must keep their chins high after they made crucial errors which resulted in them losing 35-16 to Western Province in their opening Absa Currie Cup Premier Division match on Friday.
The Kings coach says it is also vital that the team move on and focus on the encounter against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Despite leading 11-10 at the break against WP, the Kings lost momentum in the second half, much to the disappointment of the 21000-strong crowd at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
“We are obviously disappointed, but the Currie Cup is a long competition. We made a couple of crucial errors tonight but I thought we showed good character in that we did not give up which was a good sign,” Spencer said.
“The Kings made poor decisions at important times, which cost us in the first 10 minutes after half-time.
“Our set piece was not great in terms of our lineouts and we need to work on that but we need to remain positive and keep our chins high and keep working hard.
“We like to play a style of game that puts pressure on the opposition and unfortunately we did not put enough on against Western Province.
“I told the guys afterwards it is not going to come straight away, but it will come and we just have to keep believing in what we are trying to do here.
“The Currie Cup is a tough competition and the good thing about this game is that you get another chance next week. So we have to go back and look at the game on Monday [today] and then move on quickly and concentrate on the Lions,” Spencer said.
Kings skipper Luke Watson, who was named man of the match, and scrumhalf Kevin Luiters scored tries for the Kings against a well-organised WP defence which frustrated the home team for long spells.
“I think WP will be the best defensive team in the competition and we can hold our heads high. I also thought we created opportunities tonight and probably did not finish off,” Spencer said.
“We did well in the start, in the arm wrestle in the first half. We got off to a bit of a slow start then managed to get back into the game and lead at half-time. In the second half I thought from the kick-off receipt we did not mix it properly and they came back into our half and capitalised with a couple of tries.
“When Western Province have that momentum it is tough to come back from that, but we did not give up and scored another try and were still in the game. But fair play to the Western Province defence.
“For eight or nine guys in the Kings team it was their first Currie Cup match. So it was a big learning curve for them and I’m sure they will come out feeling a lot more relaxed in the next game,” Spencer said.
Meanwhile, WP lock Eben Etzebeth made a tentative, but successful return to top-flight rugby with a low-key involvement in the second half, writes Craig Ray.
Etzebeth hadn’t played for over nine months since sustaining a foot injury playing for the Boks against France in Paris last November. He was involved for 23 minutes against the Kings after initially being pencilled in to start the match as he readies himself for Springbok duty against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld this weekend.
Etzebeth, 22, came off the bench in the 57th minute. He made a few tackles and attended some rucks. It wasn’t the fiery return many had expected, but from a Bok perspective it was a decent comeback scenario. He will need several more matches to reach the match fitness and intensity he displayed since his test debut against England more than two years ago.
WP coach Allister Coetzee said: “It was probably better for him because the game wasn’t as intense and physical in the second half. He came through well.”
WP also played 30 minutes of the match with 14 men due to separate yellow cards for lock Manuel Carizza, prop Pat Cilliers and wing Seabelo Senatla.
WP secured a four-try bonus point as they won a first round Currie Cup match for the first time since 2010.
This weekend’s Currie Cup fixtures are:
Friday: Sharks v Pumas (Durban).
Saturday: Western Province v Blue Bulls (Cape Town), Golden Lions v EP Kings (Johannesburg), Free State Cheetahs v Griquas (Bloemfontein). – George Byron