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The Kings ran some, and then some...





SuperWrap 9, 2017

You know it wasn’t the best of weekends for South African rugby fans when the closest thing to a highlight we have to discuss is a two-point win by what we universally accept to be our worst team.

You know that as a rugby-playing nation we plunged depths unfathomable in this last round when we come out of it with the Kings as our saviours. And let us not kid ourselves, if it wasn’t for the men from Port Elizabeth saving us some face in Sydney we would have very little to talk about.

We certainly don’t have any bragging going on this week by supporters of any of our bigger franchises.

Lions fans can’t be feeling too thrilled that their team needed a very late penalty by flyhalf Elton Jantjies on Friday night to narrowly beat a Jaguares outfit that even the Bulls were able to dispatch with relative ease the week before. This wasn’t a travelling Lions B-team - this was their strongest squad playing at home and at altitude.

Sharks fans will be downright depressed after their team were held to the most unremarkable of 9-all draws, and that by the lowly Melbourne Rebels in Durban. They have nothing to take from that match other than a stark realisation that their team is wholly incapable of raising their own game above the level of the opposition they are faced with.

As for the Stormers, at least they have some reason to feel aggrieved. Make no mistake, that 57-24 hammering they took was every bit as bad as it makes them look, but the scoreline was – at least partly – the result of early scoreboard pressure put on them through at least three early tries awarded against them as a direct result of questionable refereeing.

As is always the case the referee – in this case Taranaki’s pride and joy, Paul Williams – will walk away from this with little more than a tickle on the wrist from his superiors, while all complaining fans and commentators will either be completely ignored or ridiculed by the officialdom for not knowing anything about the laws. In their eyes none of us matter.

Still, and this is the point the Stormers and all their supporters must keep in mind, a referee can’t make your tackles for you. In all the Capetonians missed 36 of them, allowing the competition's best side on current form to run the ball at them for a whopping 628 metres.

And that bring us to the Loftus shambles. The match between the Bulls and the Cheetahs was the complete opposite of the well-worn rugby cliché – here it was a pity that the match had to have a winner. Neither side deserved to be one.

The Bulls, again promising so much on paper (like an old Hustler magazine), had nothing to show for all their pre-season talk of attacking rugby other than a laughably deep backline that swings the ball from one touchline to the other without ever leaving a single defender between the lines asking himself a question. They call this “all-in-hand”, but it is every bit as predictable as the crash-balling, kick-and-charge yawn-a-thon that preceded it.

The Cheetahs also had very little to smile about. They showed none of the passion and intensity that made them such a pleasure to behold in last year’s Currie Cup. They were also woefully short of breath in the last quarter of that Loftus clash.

This tournament pays no heed to past glories, and they will know now that on this level the spoils almost always goes to the team that works the hardest, right throughout the week.

Which leaves us with only the Kings to talk about. And it is wonderful, because we hardly ever get a chance to do that.

The Kings won by two points, but the fact is they could just as well have won by 20. Two first-half tries conceded were length-of-the-field ones against the run of play. If it wasn’t for a fortunate turnover and then an intercept it would have been the South Africans scoring in the 27th and 35th minute of that match. That is effectively a 28-point swing and one that would have left most visitors deflated.

But not the Kings. Their belief grew with every single phase they strung together, every maul they launched, every scrum they dominated. They inched their way back into the match and then comfortably past the Waratahs before a late consolation try saved some face for the Sydneysiders.

This win will be the highlight of their short stay in this circus we call Super Rugby. It will probably be their biggest win in their last-ever season in the competition, and very few of us disagree with the thinking that the Sanzaar product needs a reduction every bit a desperate as your average brandy-boep. The PE outfit presents as prime an off-cut target as has ever been laid on a butcher’s block.

But we should not let the Kings disappear into the darkness unremembered. They did far too much for us to ever allow them to simply vanish.

The Kings left an indelible mark on the South African rugby landscape, and they did it in a couple of ways.

Firstly, they believed - long before any of us ever did - in names like Demetri Catrakilis, Jacques Engelbrecht, Sergeal Petersen, Bandise Maku, SP Marais, Edgar Marutlulle, Jacobie Adriaanse, Chris Cloete, Shane Gates, CJ Velleman, Wandile Mjekevu and Lizo Gcoboka. All of them went on to do significant things in the game.

This doesn’t even consider the fact that they were willing to offer homes and regular playing time to the likes of Steven Sykes, Lionel Cronje and Louis Schreuder; guys that got lost in the big squads of our other Unions, but then took their respective chances to show us that they were never as over-rated as most pundits would have had you believe.

More importantly, the Kings leave behind a legacy of player development (in the original sense of the word). The Kings coaching ticket takes a player at the start of a season and develops him so that he ends his yearly stint at least 15-20% better than anyone thought he could possibly be. Nowhere else in our country (bar perhaps at the Lions last year) can you say that about any management team.

The Kings nurture and mature talent, even if it is only because they are forced to do so because of humble squad lists at the start of every season. It remains a remarkable achievement, however. And may we all start demanding that from the rest of our teams.

The Kings must go, but let us not let them sail off into a dim sunset without them having taught us their lesson: as a country we’ll never be short on raw playing talent, and our coaching teams must be willing and able to create environments in which existing prospects can flourish and become world-class athletes.

The Kings are dead. Long live the Kings' mantra!

Here is our team for the week, based entirely on last weekend’s performances.

Bok Barometer for week nine:
15. Warwick Gelant (Bulls), 14. Cheslin Kolbe (Stormers), 13. Jesse Kriel (Bulls), 12. Harold Vorster (Lions), 11. Makazole Mapimpi (Kings), 10. Lionel Cronje (Kings), 9. Louis Schreuder (Kings), 8. Warren Whiteley (Lions), 7. Jannes Kirsten (Bulls), 6. Chris Cloete (Kings), 5. Franco Mostert (Lions), 4. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), 3. Ross Geldenhuys (Kings), 2. Torsten van Jaarsveld (Cheetahs), 1. Justin Forwood (Kings).

Best tries:

Best of social media:


Congratulations to every player in the squad. But especially to longtime SuperWrap blue-eye boy CJ Stander. We're all looking forward to June!

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Some things can NEVER been unseen.

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Right you are, Mr Ray!

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Varsity Cup 2017 was as fun as always. Well done to everyone involved!

Comment-hater

Lions coach Johan Ackermann focused on his team’s frustrations during the Vodacom Super Rugby win over the Jaguares, who managed to make the Johannesburg side struggle with the tactics they employed, but the fans that turned up to Ellis Park were treated to something perhaps even more jarring during the game.

The stadium announcer - who seems to think himself more important by the day and simply loves his own voice - “treated” fans to commentary when the game started, deciding himself that those at the game didn’t just want to watch the match unfold but needed a blow-by-blow description as well. Luckily it seemed he was approached quickly by a member of staff and his commentary was cut off as quickly as it began.

But then there was the DJ (we’re not sure if it is the same guy), who every 10 minutes or so decided to play music while the game was on.

We’re aware that rugby bosses are trying to spice up the game with all sorts of match entertainment, but surely the game remains the game? Those gimmicks can be kept for between plays, not when the ball is alive.

Ben 7

It was great to see Sevens coach Ben Ryan being honoured with a banknote and coin for the Fijians’ Olympic victory this week.

The new denomination - a $7 bill – and the coin of Ryan sitting on a rock looking out at the see – are to commemorate Fiji’s only Olympic medal in history and the great achievement for the island nation.

Ryan, who is now with Wales, deserves the honour and is a great coach.

We wonder though: what are the plans if Neil Powell’s team win the World Series in a few weeks’ time?

I'm sure, if it's a coin, we could call it the Magnifi7Cent......

#PayBackTheMoney

Finally, we’ve given him stick for his lack of verbosity but Robert du Preez was spot on with his assessment of the 9-all draw against the Rebels on Saturday.

“We stuffed it up,” he honestly offered straight after the game. And then went a bit further.

“I think the players should refund the public’s money,” he added.

While those who watched the game will agree, there is little chance they will get the two hours of their lives back though.

And “highlights” of the game should be slapped with a warning label as well.

But thanks Robert, we were quick to give you a bit of stick in the past, but this time you said it just as it is.


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