Watson out of Kings' tour
Port Elizabeth - The Kings will depart on the big adventure of their first Super Rugby overseas tour without their appointed captain Luke Watson and possibly without one or two other key players who are nursing injuries after a bruising match against the Chiefs
According to the supersport.com website, Watson has played all but the first 30 minutes of what has been an impressive start to Super Rugby from a new franchise that, driven by the energy of a large, passionate home crowd clearly hungry for top rugby, has exceeded expectations so far.
The Kings lost 35-24 to the champion Chiefs at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Friday night and it was the second successive game they didn’t pick up a bonus point, but if you consider that they were without the three players who have captained them so far this year, it was an outstanding effort to still be competitive in the dying minutes.
Darron Nell, who captained the side against the Sharks last week, was forced out just before the game through one of those unfortunate injuries that sometimes happen as a team is warming up.
“It’s just one of those things, Darron felt a slight stiffness in his calf during the warm-up and we felt it wise not to risk him in the game,” said Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons.
According to Solomons, the reason that Andries Strauss, who took over from Watson in the win against the Western Force, did not play in the starting team was also down to injury. The former Sharks and Cheetahs centre had a bruise that hadn’t gone down by the Thursday training session so the Kings decided to start with Hadleigh Parkes instead, with Strauss playing off the bench.
It was a change that impacted on the game, with Strauss showing how strong his leadership and his defence is when he came on later in the match. Lock Steven Sykes took over from fellow second row forward Nell as team captain, and Solomons had to call the replacement lock from the stands to sit on the bench.
“There are a few bumps and bruises that need assessment and we will look at those before finalising our tour squad,” said Solomons.
“We have 35 players in the group that are on standby to tour and we will whittle it down according to who is fit. What I can tell you is that Luke Watson won’t be touring. He has visited a specialist and we won’t be risking him as he is not 100 percent fit.”
Asked if Watson, who received a blow to the neck against the Force and has been in discomfort ever since, would require surgery, Solomons said he didn’t think so.
“Surgery is something you always try to avoid if at all possible,” he said.
There were other injuries during the game, including fullback SP Marais, and Solomons said he was pleased with the way the replacements had come on and shown they could play Super Rugby, thus sending out a message about the depth available.
The Chiefs took five points from the game as they won and scored four tries, but their coach Dave Rennie acknowledged that his men were in a match afterwards.
“We should have put them away in the first half but they kept coming back at us and refused to lie down, so while we weren’t completely happy with our accuracy, you have to give the Kings credit,” said Rennie.
“They clearly play for themselves and are a well-knit unit and I can see them bowling over another team or two during the course of the competition.”