The South Africans have a new team this year in
the Super 15 but it is hard to see the Southern Kings making an
impact. Rugby writer Steve Hepburn looks at the Kings and the
four other South African sides.
Luke Watson, captain of the newest South African Super
Rugby team, the Southern Kings. Photo Getty
The Southern Kings are about to enter the battle, but they
appear to be armed with a peashooter.
The new franchise out of Port Elizabeth has been long in the
making and now gets its turn on the big stage. It took years
of talks and political manoeuvring before it was finally
decided last year the Southern Kings would be the fifth team
from the Republic, replacing the bottom-placed South African
team of 2012.
So, they have come in for the woeful Lions but it may well be
a straight swap: one cellar-dweller for another.
The Kings come from a place, the Eastern Cape, where rugby,
especially among the black population, is strong, but that is
unlikely to translate into winning results.
They have the odd good player but pre-season form, including
a heavy loss to the Lions, suggests the side will struggle.
The Kings attempted to get in more foreign players but this
was given the thumbs down by South African Rugby Union
officials. They have brought in a New Zealander as coach -
former Crusaders hooker Matt Sexton has the reins and is
assisted by former Mid Canterbury first five-eighth Brad
Mooar. Respected South African Alan Solomons is the director
But for all the expertise off the field, it is on the paddock
where games are won and lost and it is here the Kings are
When journeyman Auckland midfield back Hadleigh Parkes is the
marquee foreign signing, things are not too rosy.
Luke Watson is an honest loose forward but the rest of the
signings have that past-it or never-been look about them.
The Kings may beat the lowly Force first up this weekend but
from then on, with a tough overseas trip looming, the going
will be tough.
The rest of the South African sides should be competitive.
The Stormers need to find an attacking edge. They have had
the best defence in the competition for years but struggle to
score tries. Bryan Habana is off to Toulon after the season
so will be keen to go out with a bang.
The Sharks overachieved last year in making the final and
will be looking to go as far again.
They have Francois Steyn back from France full-time and he
will be a great guide for Patrick Lambie. Hooker Bismarck du
Plessis is not due back until April at the earliest as he
recovers from a knee injury.
The Bulls will again be competitive but there is the question
of whether their limited game plan will come unstuck more
heavily than in previous years.
They may have to look to move the ball more often, but
winning at Loftus Versfeld is never easy for visiting teams.
The Cheetahs face a month on the road after playing their
first game at home and how they do on those travels may
decide their destiny. Much will depend on young first
five-eighth Johan Goosen and the side's ability to close out
How they look
Coach: Allister Coetzee (third year)
Captain: Jean de Villiers
Key forward: Lock Eben Etzebeth
Key back: First five Elton Jantjies
Last year: Semifinals
Coach: John Plumtree (sixth year)
Captain: Keegan Daniel
Key forward: Prop Jannie du Plessis
Key back: First five Pat Lambie
Last year: Finalist
Coach: Frans Ludeke (fourth year)
Captain: Pierre Spies
Key forward: Hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle
Key back: Utility Francois Hougaard
Last year: Fifth
Coach: Naka Drotske (sixth year)
Captain: Adriaan Strauss
Key forward: Hooker Strauss
Key back: Halfback Sarel Pretorius
Last year: 10th
Coach: Matt Sexton (first year)
Captain: Luke Watson
Key forward: Loose forward Watson
Key back: First five Demetri Catrakilis
Last year: n/a