Heinz Schenk
4 minute read
20 Feb 2017
2:16 pm

Dead men walking? The Kings hold their collective breath

Heinz Schenk

The embattled franchise at least had normal pre-season for Super Rugby and certainly not the worst squad on paper. Will that mean anything?

Tough Thembelani Bholi headlines a talented group of flankers for the Kings. Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images.

There are two ways you can look at the Kings in Super Rugby.

You can either complain that they’ve been set up to fail – which is tempting – or argue this represents the brave new world of transformation.

Also read: A blank page: The curious case of the young Sharks

After all, what better way to expose promising black players to a fairly high standard of rugby?

On the question of coping: you’ll never know until you don’t expose them.

But we all know it’s not that simple.

Will the Kings at least be better than last year?

Fullbacks: Chrysander Botha, Johann Tromp, Ntabeni Dukisa

This is certainly not the worst group of fullbacks to stock a team with.

Chrysander Botha and Johann Tromp are both Namibian stalwarts with experience at 2015’s World Cup.

Botha even has experience with the Lions and England’s Exeter Chiefs.

On-loan Ntabeni Dukisa has developed into one of Griquas’ most reliable performers.

Verdict: Room for positive development

Wings: Siyanda Grey, Malcolm Jaer, Yaw Penxe, Wandile Mjekevu, Alshuan Bock, Makazole Mapimpi

There could be a few hidden gems here.

The diminutive Malcom Jaer is a hard-working player whom the Blitzboks dearly wanted, while Wandile Mjekevu nowadays has relatively substantial Super Rugby experience.

The versatile Siyanda Grey could shift to centre but provides decent back-up.

Alshaun Bock, a burly 34-year-old former Baby Bok, has lost any pace.

Verdict: Decent

Centres: Waylon Murray, Berton Klaasen, Neil Maritz, Luzuko Vulindlu

The fact that the Kings are pinning their hopes on an injury-prone, 30-year-old Waylon Murray says everthing.

Coach Deon Davids might have some restless nights over the depth in this department.

Verdict: Another recruit should’ve been a priority

Flyhalves: Lionel Cronje, Pieter-Steyn de Wet, Garrick Mattheus, Masixole Banda

The joke goes Lionel Cronje is on a mission to play for every province in South Africa.

It certainly feels that way.

Yet the journeyman said earlier this month he really is committed to making an impact.

And in this team, he finally has the ideal opportunity as his backup isn’t top-class.

Garrick Mattheus is a good goal-kicker.

Verdict: Time for a junior prodigy to step up

Scrumhalves: Louis Schreuder, Ricky Schroeder, Poerie van Rooyen, Johan Steyn

The Kings were, rightly, very excited to have recruited a former Springbok tourist in Louis Schreuder.

But the heartening thing about this group of halfbacks is that they really can push each other throughout the campaign.

Ricky Schroeder, a former Lions skipper, is a good distributor and Poerie van Rooyen an underrated, skilful attacker.

Verdict: One of their stronger areas

Eighthmen: Ruaan Lerm, Christiaan de Bruin

There was a time when Ruaan Lerm was considered the man to take over the Lions captaincy from Warren Whiteley.

Professional sport though is clearly unforgiving.

That doesn’t mean the man loaned from the Pumas can’t show the doubters wrong.

Verdict: Exactly the type of player the Kings need

Flankers: Chris Cloete, Stefan Willemse, Thembelani Bholi, CJ Velleman, Tyler Paul, Andisa Ntsila

The Kings were kept from being hammered further in 2016 basically because their loose-forwards tackled and try to steal possession like men possessed.

That group has been kept for another season, meaning the Eastern Cape franchise can still consider them one of their primary weapons.

Verdict: Versatile and skilful

Locks: Cameron Lindsay, Sintu Manjezi, Irne Herbst, Wandile Putuma, Mzwanele Zito

Oh boy.

Haven’t heard of these gentlemen?

Don’t worry as most of South African rugby hasn’t.

It would seem then the coaching staff can go horses for courses in this position and determine later who are the best candidates.

Verdict: Problematic

Props: Schalk Ferreira, Schalk van der Merwe, Ross Geldenhuys, Chris Heiberg, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Justin Forwood

If there’s one area where coach Davids can stand in front of people and brag, it’s in the front row.

There’s a wealth of options here.

Schalk Ferreira is known as one of the best looseheads in SA; the Lions were truly depressed when they lost Schalk van der Merwe; Ross Geldenhuys played for the Highlanders; Chris Heiberg turned out for the Force.

Need one say more?

Verdict: Opponents will be green with envy

Hookers: Martin Bezuidenhout, Michael Willemse, Tango Balekile, Kurt Haupt

You can’t go wrong with the underappreciated Martin Bezuidenhout but Mikey Willemse won’t be guaranteed the deputy role.

In fact, there’s a problem if the veteran is absent.

Verdict: Lacking in depth

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