Southern Kings need to find that winning feeling
No long holiday, says Deon Davids after below-par campaign
Building depth and a vibrant team culture during the off-season will be vital if the Isuzu Southern Kings want to transform themselves into a potent force.
Denied a proper preseason in the past, the Kings have always been on the back foot which forced them to play catch-up against their rivals.
Minutes after the Kings’ Guinness PRO14 campaign ended with a 61-25 thrashing at the hands of the Cheetahs, Kings head coach Deon Davids had already turned his thoughts to fresh challenges.
There will be no long offseason holiday break for the coach, who will be under pressure to deliver the goods for the team’s new owners.
“I will have to convince my wife that I am on a break, but I have to work to do,” Davids smiled.
“I will be more relaxed when I know everything is in place for next season and we can see the picture and things are organised.
“If you do not have a preseason, you don’t have a chance to look at the players before you go into a campaign. The Cheetahs played in the SuperSport Challenge, the Currie Cup and then went into the PRO14.
“For the past two years, we were not in that position. It has all been documented. This year we started our campaign with 13 players two weeks before the tournament started.
“We were lucky to have 25 players available when we flew on the plane to Italy for our opening game against Zebre.
“When you start like that you learn combinations and you are forced to build a culture as you go along.
“So for us it was always a catch-up situation and that makes it very difficult.
“It was not only difficult for the players on the field, but also for the coaching and support staff because we lost quality people during the off-season.
“I believe if you have a good foundation and your recruitment is in place and you have a set venue and identity from where you operate, your culture will improve.”
Davids said he was confident the Kings would enjoy a proper preseason this time.
“We have sat down and looked at various scenarios and we have lots of work to do and there are many boxes we must tick in terms of what must happen on and off the field. Once we have that information we can take things forward.“We are analysing our season and that will determine what players we need in the future to be effective.”The coach is clearly planning to beef up his scrum.“If you do not have proper set-pieces, you put yourself under pressure and the opposition will kick the ball out in your 22.“If you look and analyse PRO14 statistics, most of the tries were scored from within the 22.“That is one of the massive learning curves for us.The embarrassment of the 61-25 defeat the Kings suffered against the Cheetahs emphasised the scale of the rebuilding needed to put the PE franchise back on its feet.They could win only two of their 21 matches and not surprisingly ended bottom of the Conference B standings.This is not good enough for a fully-fledged professional outfit, who are meant to showcase South African talent on an international stage.PRO14 bosses will demand a better showing from the team, who have added no value to the tournament since their debut season two years ago.Only three wins in 42 outings amplifies just how far off the pace the Kings are lagging.Highly rated Irish lock Jerry Sexton and utility back Courtney Winnaar have already been signed, and a flood of new arrivals are expected in the weeks ahead.It’s time for the Kings to get that winning feeling back!