A case of what might have been?
Signs are that coach Deon Davids is to leave Kings after battling the odds at poorly resourced franchise
There will always be the overriding feeling of what could have been if Isuzu Southern Kings head coach Deon Davids leaves the franchise after receiving a golden handshake.With everything suggesting that Davids will part ways with the Kings, his spell at the franchise has come under scrutiny this week.It is believed that Davids’s fate will be decided at a Kings board meeting next week.When news emerged that Davids could be on his way out, there was no initial reaction from the franchise.In a terse statement on Tuesday, the Kings said: “We can confirm that the Kings are in discussions with Deon Davids regarding his future options with the franchise.“More details will be shared if an agreement has been reached between the parties.”There is still no news on whether Davids is going, but the sticking point will be that the coach is said to have a contract that runs until June 2020.Talks are probably centred on whether the team’s owners are prepared to pay him out for the remainder of his contract.If he goes, one will be forced to wonder what Davids could have achieved at the Kings if he had been given the firepower to compete on a level footing with his rivals.For most of his time in charge of the franchise in Super Rugby and PRO14 it was as if Davids had been forced to fight his battles with one hand tied behind his back. As the defeats kept piling up, so the calls mounted from supporters for him to be shown the door.Though he had his detractors, many felt he could only be judged when he was given proper resources to do his job.Instead, Davids was given mostly journeymen who were found wanting against classier opposition.Though his teams were often found wanting, they normally fought right to the death and always showed an appetite for battle.Davids had a way of making the most of his limited resources and he revelled in polishing uncut diamonds.The first thing Makazole Mapimpi did when he heard he was named for the Springbok team to face Wales in Washington was to thank Davids.Davids played a big part in Mapimpi ’s development after he arrived in Port Elizabeth to join the Kings from Border.“It is fantastic to realise you have contributed to change a young man’s life and seeing him achieving his goals,” Davids said after Mapimpi’s selection. “Especially when you reflect on how he grew in confidence as a person and player after he joined us.“I saw that happen in 2017. From a shy guy to someone who became the joker on the field. He is now a player who communicates excellently.”Davids has a man management style that endeared him to his players.At one Kings training session tempers became frayed and one of the players took a swipe at a teammate.Davids wasted no time in sorting out the problem.The squad were called into a huddle and after some serious talk from Davids the warring pair shook hands in the middle of the circle.Problem solved, and new friends made!But three wins in 42 PRO14 outings does not make easy reading and the cards were always stacked against Davids when he played against starladen European opposition.In the one season Davids had some quality as his disposal, he oversaw some momentous wins for the Kings.Top of the list was a thrilling 31-30 Super Rugby win over the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in 2017.Few will forget the scenes when an elated Davids celebrated with his players after a late penalty from flyhalf Lionel Cronje clinched victory.Apart from his inspirational skipper Cronje, Davids’s team included Malcolm Jaer, Makazole Mapimpi, Louis Schreuder, Tyler Paul, Chris Cloete, Irne Herbst, Ross Geldenhuys, Schalk Ferreira, Thembelani Bholi and Yaw Penxe.Not long afterwards, the Kings were withdrawn from Super Rugby and almost all the stars left for greener pastures ahead of the PRO14 season in 2018.After the last game of the recently completed PRO14 season, Davids gave an indication of the frustrations of coaching the poorly resourced franchise.Even though his team had just been thrashed 61-25 by the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, he was already plotting for the next campaign.For once the future looked much brighter, with ambitious new owners on board and some money to spend on quality new recruits.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.Events during the past week suggest Davids will not be at the helm for a third PRO14 season.If it works out that way, it will always be a case of what might have been.