Night to remember for an ecstatic crowd as home team makes history
Emotional Southern Kings head coach Deon Davids said enduring spirit and guts had sparked his team to an epic 35-32 Super Rugby win over the Sharks. Davids’ view was shared by disappointed Sharks coach Robert du Preez, who said passion had carried the Kings home in front of 22 000 ecstatic fans at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
It was a special night for the Kings as they celebrated their first win over South African opposition in Super Rugby and also their third win on the trot.
“It is all about character, and the guys showed a lot of that tonight. They kept fighting right up until the end,” Davids said.
“For me, that is special. It is not always talent that wins you games. It is more about the guts and the players in the team.
“It’s about the spirit, guts and willingness that the guys have to carry the team over. That was special in terms of this win.
“It was a hard-fought battle. I always believed towards the end that we could win it. After we conceded a try, I just sent out a message that we must stick to our plan.
“That was to put the Sharks under pressure and kick off to win the ball back and play in their half. For 80% of the second half, we were under tremendous pressure.
“We were in our own half and we conceded penalties and the Sharks kept coming back with penalties,” Davids said.
Sharks coach Du Preez said it had been a disappointing night for his team.
“We can’t really have any complaints and we got outscored by four tries to two.
“Obviously, Pat Lambie’s injury was quite a setback for the team in the first half. But we have capable players to fix that issue.”
Lambie, the Sharks captain, left the field after a collision with his fullback Rhyno Smith. He was replaced by Garth April.
“This is fantastic for the Kings and they have been playing good rugby all year. So that is great and it is what we need in South Africa,” Du Preez said.
Asked what had sparked the Kings’ win, he said: “Passion and the fact that we could not exit. At the end of the day that cost us the game. I thought the Kings did really well in the scrums.” The game had been up for grabs until the final 10 minutes as both teams battled for ascendency.
It was edge-of-the-seat stuff for the crowd, and an April penalty after 68 minutes left the Sharks with a narrow 29-28 lead.
There was a fairytale ending for the Kings when, after intense pressure, Pieter-Steyn de Wet went over in the corner to put the Kings ahead 33-32 in the 78th minute.
But earlier, the Kings made a dream start when wing Alshaun Bock latched onto a pin-point cross-kick from skipper Lionel Cronje to register the first try of the evening after four minutes. A quick lineout throw caught the Sharks by surprise and Cronje’s measured kick tore the visitors’ defence wide open.
It was the first of four tries for the home team on a famous night for the franchise.
The Kings will be hunting for a fourth win on the trot when they host Australia’s Brumbies on Saturday. Scorers: Southern Kings 35: Tries: Alshaun Bock (2), Lionel Cronje, Pieter-Steyn De Wet. Conversions: Lionel Cronje (3) Penalties: Lionel Cronje (2). Drop goal: Lionel Cronje. Sharks 32: Tries: Daniel du Preez, Lwazi Mvovo. Conversions: Patrick Lambie, Garth April. Penalties: Patrick Lambie (2), Garth April (4).