Ex-Kings captain joins Solomons at Worcester
Despite its rapid expansion around the globe where lucrative new markets are constantly being sought, world rugby’s inner circle remains as tight as ever.
Even with huge amounts of cash changing hands in the professional era, mutual respect between coaches and players still enjoys pride of place.
It is against this backdrop that an old EP Kings partnership will be renewed in England when Alan Solomons welcomes Rory Duncan to Premiership club Worcester Warriors.
Former Southern Kings Super Rugby coach Solomons always had a eagle eye for talent and his decision to sign Duncan as his head coach is an inspired one.
Solomons, now director of rugby at Worcester, was in charge of the Southern Kings when they made their debut in Super Rugby in 2013.
While Solomons did not have the most talented squad at his disposal, he moulded the Kings into a battle-hardened unit which won many admirers.
For that campaign, Solomons brought in former Crusaders hooker Matt Sexton as his head coach. Sexton, who was in Port Elizabeth last month to watch the Kings play Cardiff Blues, summed up the spirit in the 2013 squad.
“They may not have been the most talented, but they seemed to grow an extra arm and leg when they pulled on a Kings jersey,” Sexton said.
It is a comment that speaks volumes about the tenacity of Solomons’ Kings.
Duncan said he was looking forward to renewing ties with the former Kings boss.
The former lock originally made the move into coaching in 2012 and joined the Free State Cheetahs in 2014 to coach their Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup teams.
Duncan took on his current role last summer, where he also oversees the side in South Africa’s domestic Currie Cup competition.
In his playing days Duncan represented the Sharks, before going on to play for the Cheetahs.
He was part of the Cheetahs’ Currie Cup winning side in 2006, before captaining the team to another Currie Cup victory in 2007.
He then moved to Yamaha Jubilo in Japan before going on to captain the EP Kings, where he played underneath Solomons. When he called time on his career, Duncan became head coach at Grey High where flying wing Sergeal Peterson was a member of his team.
“Rory was my captain at the EP Kings, where he showed outstanding leadership qualities and a clear ability to develop as a coach,” Solomons said.
“When he retired at the end of the season I was able to assist him in his transition to coaching and we have remained in touch.
“As expected he has turned out to be an outstanding coach and I had no hesitation in appointing him to the head coach position at Warriors, an appointment which has been endorsed by our chairman Bill Bolsover.”
Duncan bade farewell to the Cheetahs after they went down 43-8 against champions Scarlets in Wales last Saturday.
“I am immensely excited about the challenge of moving to Warriors and linking up with Alan Solomons once again,” Duncan said.
“Warriors are a club with huge potential, which is clear for everyone to see, and I will be working hard with Alan and the rest of the coaching staff to help the club move forward.”
Duncan certainly deserves a big round of applause for what the Cheetahs achieved in their debut PRO rugby season.
Though they came unstuck in last week’s quarterfinal against the Scarlets, the men in orange can hold their heads up high.
“We did not set sights on where we wanted to go in PRO14, because it was new territory we were entering into. We said we would take it one week at a time and see how we progress,” Duncan said.
“If you had asked us two games into the competition, after we took almost 50 points, we would have said we needed to work hard.
“Back then we were in position where we said we needed to learn and we needed to learn quickly on how to play in the northern hemisphere.
“The Cheetahs did learn and we got to the playoffs. Along the way we never spoke about making them.”
After making such an impact during his time in Bloemfontein, Duncan’s move to England is a big blow for the Free Staters.
In the tightly knit rugby world, one team’s gain is always another’s loss.