Their parent union is bankrupt, their previous president charged with corruption and their Super Rugby future is uncertain.
Yet the Kings are playing like, well, kings.
A brilliant 35-32 win over the high-flying Sharks means Deon Davids’ now have more log points than the Waratahs, Force, Reds, Rebels, Bulls, Cheetahs and Sunwolves.
And one wonders: how can Saru cut these men from Super Rugby?
Talent isn’t everything
The greatest lesson the Kings have taught South African rugby this year is that nothing beats a well-coached team.
The Bulls, for example, have world-class players within their ranks but because of inexperienced (and some would say inferior) coaching, they’re nowhere.
Deon Davids, the Kings coach, has delivered a feast from crumbs.
“It’s not always talent that wins you games,” he said.
“It’s more about the guts and the players in the team. It’s about the spirit‚ guts and willingness that the guys have to carry team over.”
Of course there are some excellent prospects in the current group but the real joy is how their starting to show the fruits of their relative stability.
“That was special in terms of this win. It was a hard-fought battle. I always believed towards the end that we could win it. After we conceded a try‚ I sent out a message that we must stick to our plan,” said Davids.
Pat Lambie’s curse continues
What must the Sharks and Springbok flyhalf do just to stay on the field?
It’s the question of numerous despairing fans as the 26-year-old playmaker had to leave the field with concussion during the Kings skirmish.
He had just returned from a back injury.
“Pat’s injury was obviously a setback,” said a sombre Robert du Preez, the Sharks coach.
Ironically, that lowlight also provided a highlight for the Sharks.
In Lambie’s absence, Garth April shone with excellent goal-kicking and good distribution as replacement.
“We certainly have players capable of fixing that issue,” said Du Preez.
Promotion of youth comes at a cost
Bulls coach Nollis Marais said he was “proud” of the young side he put on the field against the Highlanders.
And they certainly showed guts in muddy conditions.
But it was also lock RG Snyman’s red card that cost them as the New Zealanders scored the winning try after that to prevail by 17-10.
“It was unfortunate that the seven-point turnaround was costly. At the end of the day‚ RG is 21 and there’s not much I can say,” said Marais.
“He played well and he made a mistake. He’s feeling bad because he knows how it important it was for the team and for me.”
That’s fair enough on paper but it’s cold comfort for gatvol Bulls fans.