KINGS forwards coach Shaun Sowerby is set to turn his back on Eastern Province after only one season and link up with top French team Montpellier.
Sowerby’s expected return to France, where he played for several seasons, means the Kings might lose two coaches in the space of a few months.
Defence coach Michael Horak, who joined the Kings from the Cheetahs this year, left Port Elizabeth shortly after the end of the Currie Cup to join the Sharks.
“Yes, Shaun wants to go back to France. His wife is not happy here,” EP Kings president Cheeky Watson said.
French sports newspaper L’Equipe has reported that former Springbok coach Jake White is now a consultant at Montpellier until the end of the season with Sowerby as his forwards coach.
Sowerby played professional rugby in France for several seasons and this insider knowledge could have persuaded Montpellier to sign him.
He won the French championship in the 2007-08 season with his club Toulouse. In 2010 Sowerby won the Heineken Cup, also with Toulouse.
Sowerby moved to FC Grenoble in 2012 and has also played for Stade Francaise.
This latest development could leave former New Zealand star and Kings head coach Carlos Spencer with a new support team as he bids to regroup after EP lost nine of their 10 Currie Cup Premier Division matches.
Horak looks set to be replaced by former Southern Kings and Edinburgh defensive guru Omar Mouneimne.
Former Springbok prop Robbie Kempson could be a candidate for the role of forwards coach vacated by Sowerby.
Kempson, however, is the EP Kings Academy manager and this might rule him out of contention.
With Mouneimne expected to be back in the fold, the Kings will be desperate to plug the holes in their defence that led to them ending bottom of the Premier Division log.
Mouneimne began his work as a professional defence coach in 2006, as a collision and breakdown specialist for the South Africa Sevens team.
He went on to coach South Africa under-20, before joining Western Province and the Stormers sides in 2008, building their reputation as one of the most feared defensive units in the Absa Currie Cup and Super Rugby.
Mouneimne was then hired by Nick Mallett during his time as head coach of Italy, and went on to vastly enhance the reputation of the Azzuri as a defensive unit.
Before news of Sowerby and Horak broke, Watson said: “I honestly think with the attitude of this coaching team, if it stays together, it can be the best in the country.”
There had been some rumblings of discontent among supporters calling for the jettisoning of Spencer and his young assistant coaches after the dismal Currie Cup campaign.
After a 12-year absence from the top flight, the Kings failed to make an impression, salvaging only a small measure of pride by winning their final match against the Pumas.
But Watson says the Kings will make great strides forward next year because Spencer knows his players much better now.
Watson said Spencer deserved praise because he had taken on a team that he had been given and had no part in assembling.
“In hindsight, the coaches were a little bit in the dark. They were given the squad of players, but they did not know their the strengths and weaknesses.”
The Kings return to the training pitch on January 5 after their end- of-year break. – George Byron