SA Rugby have asked fans to be patient and only pass judgment on the struggling Southern Kings at the end of their debut PRO14 season following a dismal start in the European competition.
Hastily assembled after most of their star players left the franchise after Super Rugby, the SA Rugby Union-controlled Kings went down 31-3 against Benetton Treviso in their last match – their sixth defeat.
“There will also be the opportunity to strengthen the squad as the season progresses, but it’s a long season and mature judgment can only come on its conclusion,” SA Rugby media spokesman Andy Colquhoun said.
It remains unclear how much cash SA Rugby is prepared to invest in the Kings to bolster the team after their slow start. So far the Kings are leaking tries at an average of five a match as they battle to adjust to the challenge of European rugby.
Kings chief operations officer Charl Crous said: “We are looking at the situation carefully and we have a few players in mind. “The Kings are already busy with their planning and contracting strategy for the 2018-19 PRO14 season.”
One player set to boost the Kings is Pumas prop Pieter Scholtz, who will join the team at the end of the Currie Cup. Kings officials are confident head coach Deon Davids can transform the fortunes of the team.
SA Rugby took control of the Kings after a cash crisis hit the EP Rugby Union and are bankrolling the team in PRO14. In a bid to find out what SA Rugby are planning to do to resurrect the fortunes of the Kings, The Herald asked them:
- In light of the Southern Kings’ poor performances in PRO14, is there a plan to reinforce them with new signings?
- Are the Kings guaranteed a three-year stay in PRO14 irrespective of performance?
- Is SA Rugby planning to budget more money for the Kings so that they can become more competitive?
- What is SA Rugby’s view of the Kings’ showing to date, considering it is in control of the franchise?
In reply, Colquhoun said: “The Southern Kings’ inclusion in the PRO14 was accomplished in a very short space of time and presented a number of logistical challenges – not least of which was the contracting of a squad.
“Coach Deon Davids and the rest of the Kings’ management have worked manfully against the odds and as time progresses they will improve as they amply demonstrated in Super Rugby.”
It is against this backdrop that EPRU president Andre Rademan announced last month that his union was planning to take back control of the Kings’ PRO14 team. Rademan said a board would be formed shortly comprising three EPRU members and three members of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, who will assist in obtaining sponsors for the union.
“I am very confident we will have full control within a year,” Rademan said.
The Kings returned to South Africa this week after a two-week tour to Europe, where they were beaten by Welsh team Newport Gwent Dragons and Italian outfit Benetton Treviso.
The team were given a break this week ahead of their next outing in Scotland against Glasgow on October 27.