Upset coach Deon Davids is demanding a change in attitude from the struggling Southern Kings after they slumped to a 43-17 loss against Zebre.
The Kings had the wind knocked out of their sails by the energetic Italians when they scored two early tries to lay the foundation for their emphatic Guinness Pro14 win.
A crowd of only 4 062 fans turned up on a cold night at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth to see the home team outscored by six tries to two, in round four of the competition.
It was a fourth consecutive defeat and the Kings are at the bottom of Conference B without a point.
Zebre – one of the weakest teams in the Pro14 – produced a scintillating first-half display and piled on the misery for the winless Southern Kings as they struggle to find their feet in the European league.
The Italian side starved the home team of possession as they marched to a 22-3 half-time lead.
“I don’t think there are any excuses – we were just not good enough,” Davids said.
“I felt that our decision making and our attitude was just not there.
“Decision making we can consistently work on – but attitude is something that the players need to bring.
“That is something that is a core ingredient of a good defence, irrespective of your systems. Effort is crucial and I think that lacked in the first half.
“It was not a performance we can be proud of. We expected a bit more from ourselves in this game and I think we disappointed ourselves.
“We have to do some self-examination and also work harder.”
Davids said he had not been surprised that the Italians showed their attacking prowess from the kickoff.
“I expected Zebre to play a quick game. They showed that against the Cheetahs – and we prepared for that.
“We talked straight to each other after the game – and to give the players an idea in terms of what my perceptions are,” the coach said. “It is up to all of us to change that.”
Disappointed captain Michael Willemse said the Southern Kings team were hurting after the loss.
“I spoke to the boys and we are all hurting. We really want to do well as a group,” Willemse said.
“At half time, I said to the team we needed to change our attitude and stop giving away silly penalties and jet ourselves back into the game.
“The guys still had belief in them and showed glimpses of something. But we are letting ourselves down and we have to change that.
“They put a lot of pressure on us and I don’t think our attitude was there in the first half.
“We need to play more with the ball and not give away those penalties. That kept the pressure on us.
“We need to make a collective agreement as a team because the coaches are putting in hard work behind the scenes. As players, we need to buy in.”
The Kings leave for Europe today on a three-match tour with games against the Dragons, Benneton and Glasgow.
Scorers: Southern Kings 17: Tries: Godlen Masimla, Luvuyo Pupuma. Conversions: Pieter-Steyn de Wet (2). Penalty: De Wet. Zebre 43: Tries: Tommaso Castello, Mattia Bellini, Renato Giammarioli, Tommaso Boni, Giulio Bisegni, Jacopo Sarto. Conversions: Carlo Canna (4), Serafin Bordoli. Penalty: Canna.