An upbeat Southern Kings coach Deon Davids is pleased with the progress of his squad during the pre-season campaign ahead of the Vodacom Super Rugby season.
The Port Elizabeth-based side returned to training this week following a two-and-a-half weeks’ Festive Season break eager to complete their last leg of pre-season preparations ahead of the opening match against Jaguares at home at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on February 25.
Coach Davids is happy his side has had an opportunity to have a full pre-season, unlike in previous seasons when this proved to be a challenge.
“We were fortunate this time that we were able to start a bit earlier,” said Davids.
“Unfortunately, we did start a bit late with some of the contracting because of certain circumstances, but we are much ahead in comparison with where we were last year. We have had two wonderful months of pre-season.”
The coach is also pleased with the manner in which the players in the squad have responded.
“It has been quite interesting and challenging. Some of the guys have not really been used to the workload, some responded well. Overall, each individual progressed and got better as we went through the pre-season,” he said.
“Under the circumstances, in a short space of time, we were lucky to be able to put together a reasonable squad of talented players. There are a lot of exciting youngsters coming through. I think we have a good balance, although there will always be one or two positions where you could think that we could still try and test things.
“But overall, I’m quite happy with where we are. Again, this time last year we did not have a squad and now we are in a fortunate position.
“In the best circumstances we would have liked to have had some continuity – building from the Currie Cup into Super Rugby, but unfortunately we work under different circumstances. However, I do think we can look forward to seeing the squad playing.”
Davids, his coaching staff and the players are eager to be back on the playing pitch.
The Southern Kings will play two warm-up matches in the build-up to the start of the Vodacom Super Rugby campaign. They take on Border Bulldogs in East London on February 4 and then face the SWD Eagles at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on February 11.
“The game is played at a very high intensity – the demands physically and from a running perspective are very high. We all know that last year we struggled a bit in the last 20 to 30 minutes because we did not have a pre-season. This year we have laid the foundation. If we continue to build on this, then we will be able to do better, conditioning-wise this year,” said Davids.
“The two friendlies will be all about ourselves. We have worked on a few things and we are excited to see if we can play at a certain tempo. We are excited to see the things we have learnt from our previous experiences – how that will show on the field of play. We are also excited about some of the players who will have first-time exposure to Super Rugby. We also want to see how certain combinations work. It will also be an opportunity to see what work we need to do before our first game.
“Super Rugby is an exciting competition, it’s very tough, but it is a privilege to be part of it. Each one, from player to management, is looking forward to the competition and we can’t wait for that first game.”
The full list of Southern Kings fixtures is as follows:
FEB 4: Border Bulldogs vs Southern Kings, East London (17h15 kick-off)
FEB 11: Southern Kings vs SWD Eagles, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (17h15 kick-off)
VODACOM SUPER RUGBY
FEB 25: Southern Kings vs Jaguares, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (17h15 kick-off)
MAR 4: Sunwolves vs Southern Kings, National Stadium, Singapore (10h55 kick-off)
MAR 11: Southern Kings vs DHL Stormers, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (19h30 kick-off)
MAR 18: CELL-C Sharks vs Southern Kings, Growthpoint Kings Park (19h30 kick-off)
MAR 25: Southern Kings vs Emirates Lions, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (15h05 kick-off)
APR 9: Western Force vs Southern Kings, nib Stadium (08h05 kick-off)
APR 15: Queensland Reds vs Southern Kings, Suncorp Stadium (07h05 kick-off)
APR 22: Waratahs vs Southern Kings, Allianz Stadium (11h45 kick-off)
APR 29: Southern Kings vs Melbourne Rebels, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (19h30 kick-off)
MAY 13: Southern Kings vs CELL-C Sharks, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (17h15 kick-off)
MAY 20: Southern Kings vs Brumbies, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (15h05 kick-off)
MAY 28: Emirates Lions vs Southern Kings, Emirates Airline Park (14h30 kick-off)
JUL 1: Jaguares vs Southern Kings, Jose Amalfitani Stadium (01h05 kick-off)
JUL 8: Vodacom Bulls vs Southern Kings, Loftus Versfeld (17h15 kick-off)
JUL 14: Southern Kings vs Cheetahs, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (19h00)