SA sides urgently need lift-off in PRO14

2017-09-05 12:25
Deon Davids (Getty)

Cape Town - There is obviously no reason for great panic after one round, but the Cheetahs and the Kings need lift-off as soon as possible in the PRO14

A look at the two Conferences shows both South African franchises at the foot of their respective tables, and things will not get any easier this weekend. 

As they prepare for round two, there is a clear need for both sides to improve in their bids to make an impact in northern hemisphere rugby. 

If the South African move to Europe is to be considered a success, then both the Cheetahs and Kings will need to offer the PRO14 something unique.

The organisers, at a launch in Cape Town last month, said as much. 

They can do this by enhancing the level of competition or by providing positive international exposure to the PRO14 brand, but the South African results we saw in week one do neither of those things. 

How well the tournament will be received in South Africa will only be known when the Cheetahs and Kings start playing matches on home soil, but fans in Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth will be more likely to go to the stadiums if they know that their sides will be competitive.

The best news to emerge from round one was that SuperSport has come on board to ensure that the exploits of the South African sides are televised. 

It was a tough introduction for the Cheetahs and the Kings as both sides were comfortably beaten on the scoreboard.

The Cheetahs, in particular, now have a tough assignment when they travel to Rassie Erasmus's Munster on Saturday. 

The Irish giants were clinical if not spectacular in their 34-3 dismantling of Italy's Treviso last weekend, and they will provide the Cheetahs with another stern test. 

Cheetahs boss Rory Duncan is still trying to stamp his mark on this side, highlighted by his decision to play Clayton Blommetjies at flyhalf. 

But while they will always offer some threat on attack, it is on defence where the Cheetahs continue to look vulnerable and that will be the area in need of the most urgent attention when they take on the three-time Celtic League champions. 

The Cheetahs were considered fourth-favourites ahead of the tournament, but after just one week they have slipped down to seventh-favourites at 16/1, according to local bookmakers Sportingbet

The Kings, meanwhile, were smashed 57-10 by the defending champion Scarlets in round one and now visit Connacht in western Ireland. 

They, like the Cheetahs, will be desperate to put up a better showing. 

While it will obviously take time for both the Cheetahs and Kings to acclimatise to a new competition, South African rugby needs them to quickly emerge as competitive. 

The Kings obviously face more of an uphill battle than the Cheetahs, given that coach Deon Davids has effectively had to start from scratch following a post-Super Rugby exodus, but it is imperative that they avoid turning into the PRO14 whipping boys. 

That would do nothing to build on the momentum that was gathered in Port Elizabeth during an impressive Super Rugby campaign in 2017, and it would do nothing to suggest that a move to the PRO14 was the right one. 

The saving grace for both the Cheetahs and Kings is that the European sides will struggle in South African conditions. 

The South African sides have at least experienced the cold in Australasia before, but the European sides will not have played in the South African summer and that will have a big impact. 

In truth, nobody knew what to expect before this tournament got underway.

Just how the two franchises considered least important in South African rugby circles would fair on the European stage was anybody's guess. 

That question is still nowhere near being answered, but given what we saw in week one, the Saffer sides have a lot of work to do. 

Let's hope they both take a step in the right direction this weekend. 

They have, after all, both sidelined their Currie Cup campaigns for the benefit of this competition. 

Follow Sport24 journalist @LloydBurnardon Twitter...

Read more on:    cheetahs  |  kings  |  pro14  |  port elizabeth  |  bloemfontein  |  rugby


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