Pressure high for coach as Saru sword dangles

South Kinds head coach Deon Davids
Picture: Steve Haag / Gallo Images

Davids determined to stay positive

Defiant Southern Kings head coach Deon Davids is a man who knows how to work under pressure and he will have plenty of it to deal with over the next three weeks.

It could also be Davids’s final days with the Kings as a Super Rugby cull threatens to kill off a team that has developed into a formidable combination in recent weeks.

In the midst all the uncertainty, Davids says his team will remain positive for their final three matches despite the guillotine hanging over their necks.

Saru has announced that a special general meeting will be held in Cape Town on July 7 which will confirm the four South African entrants to a revised Super Rugby competition from 2018.

This means the Kings will hear their Super Rugby fate on the eve of their second-last game against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on July 8.

Before that pivotal clash they have a game against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on July 1 before they round off their season against the Cheetahs in Port Elizabeth.

Davids has insisted his team will remain positive, even though their Super Rugby dreams could be shattered.

Asked how he felt about the prospect of his team not being allowed to take off just when they looked like getting off the ground, Davids said: “It is not good thinking about that.

“Just the thought of having to start all over again with different players and staff . . . it would be like this year never existed.

“There are different concerns. Players have experienced playing at the highest level and now to drop from that to the Currie Cup first division is something of a concern.

“. . . there is a great drive to come back to play for the Kings in Super Rugby, or whatever at the highest level as a result of their experience here. That is the feedback I have got from them.

“I think continuity is of the utmost importance if we want to achieve what we wanted to for this region.”

Because of the delay, there has been speculation that the Kings and the Cheetahs have already been cut and that they will compete in an enlarged European Pro12 competition next season.

Next month’s general meeting has the constitutional responsibility for “determining the SA teams to participate in Super Rugby”.

SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said the meeting would decide on a proposal from the executive council which, in turn, would have received a recommendation on the participants from the franchise committee, whose membership is representatives of the Super Rugby teams. The proposal will also be debated by the non-franchise committee, which comprises the chief executives of the 14 provincial rugby unions, before reaching the special general meeting.

“I am very positive. Our set-up in this team is positive thinking and talk,” Davids said.

“You can easily distract yourself by just a word that you utter, but our thoughts and actions are that we will continue and we believe that and that is in our control .

“The Kings will continue to come out with that attitude and do that and we hope for the best,” Davids said.

There has been strong backing for the Kings to stay in Super Rugby.

Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett has proposed that the country be divided into four regions with Gauteng (Bulls and Lions), KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape (Kings and Cheetahs) and Western Cape, making up the four South African franchises.

Despite talk that the Kings are already out of Super Rugby, EP Rugby Union president Andre Rademan and Kings chief operating officer Charl Crous have stressed that remaining in the Sanzaar competition is top prize.

Insiders say the Cheetahs and the Kings are not unhappy about developments regarding possibly playing in the Pro12 or 14 because they will still earn better money from broadcast rights (paid in pounds).

There is also talk that Europe has become such an attractive proposition that a third SA franchise has indicated that it would be happy to abandon Sanzaar in favour of the Pro12 as well.

“For me as a coach it is difficult to give the players security or ask them to stay because it’s a couple of weeks and then they don’t have any contracts and stuff. There are also a lot of logistical arrangements that go with this,” Davids said.

On May 13, when the Kings made history by beating the Sharks in front of 22 000 ecstatic fans at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium it seemed unthinkable that Davids’ brave team could be booted out of Super Rugby.

If the rugby grapevine is correct, however, that is the way the cards will fall and SA chiefs owe it to Davids and his team that they have an alternative international competition to play in.

Davids has let it be known that he would be keen to coach the Kings in an enlarged Pro12 competition if his team are kicked out of Super Rugby.

It would be a mad scramble to get a new team ready for the September kick-off, but it would be hard to find a man more capable of the task than the unflagging Davids.

It will be a tough final three weeks for the coach and the team.

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