Cape Town - Southern Kings defence coach Braam van Straaten believes his side have the ability to make a big impact in this year’s PRO14 Rugby, but they will need to learn to close out games first.
The Kings led the Cardiff Blues for 67 minutes on Saturday before the Welsh side overtook them and closed out the game. But the performance was an indication of how well the Kings can do if given time and Van Straaten and the rest of the coaching team have been working hard behind the scenes to ensure the team grow and learn from their mistakes.
“I was disappointed for the boys. I thought we did enough to win it, and there were four game moments where I believe we lost the game,” Van Straaten said.
“Those are the moments in the game that hurt us. That is the thing. This competition is tough enough – you need to have clarity on where you go, be clinical in your exits and you can’t give teams like Cardiff that opportunity. The margins are so small and they are an experienced side and when they get into the 22 you are going to have your hands full. You are either going to have points against you or a yellow card.
“For me that is the learning curve we need to get better at.”
The former Springbok pivot believes that closing out games will be a key “work-on” for the side in the coming weeks as they continue to move forward in the competition.
“I think it will keep being work-ons. I think we have a young squad that is starting to pick up connections as we go along. I’ve been here two or three months now, we’ve played a couple of games and there has been some good things in the games as well. We were leading in the games at half-time and that is the big part of it. How can we sustain that?
“Our big game drivers need to learn to close out games and that is part and parcel of their growth as well.”
This weekend the Kings come up against one of the toughest sides in the competition in Munster, coached by South African Johan van Graan. But while acknowledging the challenge, Van Straaten believes the Kings will need to take control to play the game “on our terms.”
“Munster is a really good team. That team has been growing even before Rassie (Erasmus) and Jacques Nienaber was there. For me they are a very consistent team, they have been playing the same type of game plan. The same people are involved and they have continuity. They are a good side, have a really strong defence, get off the line hard and have a really good kicking game.
“We have to defuse that and play the game on our terms and make really good decisions. If we get that right for 80 minutes we will be in a good place to win the game,” he explained.
Van Straaten was also full of praise for flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, who joined the team from Harlequins in the off-season.
“Demetri is technically one of the best young players I’ve ever worked with. He’s not that young anymore, actually but I never had the opportunity to work with him before. He is fantastic, and is such an incredible young man. He takes information on so well, which is fantastic. He is really humble and still at his age, he wants to learn.
“For me as a defence coach, and looking at the attack – for my main game driver not to make 20 tackles in a game. We want him to be fresh and make good decisions. That is why we try to keep him to do what he is paid for, get us in good positions, be technically sound and make good decisions on attack. He needs to help the youngsters with the defence on the blindside. He has always been a good defender but at the moment we can utilise his full skillset because we don’t get him in the firing line all the time.”
Munster are the second of three home games for the Southern Kings, before they have a week off and then head to Europe for the first away games in the PRO14 on their 2019/20 campaign.