Kings to keep proud record?

    2013-04-11 12:05

    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town – The Kings have an extra incentive to try to knock over the Rebels, next least experienced Super Rugby franchise to them, in Melbourne on Saturday (11:40 SA time).

    Not only could the Kings’ overseas leg be deemed an unexpected success overall if they win their last assignment abroad, but they would also ensure that the newest Australian outfit remains without a victory against South African opposition from 11 attempts.

    The Rebels have often run teams from our shores close at AAMI Park, but still lost every time in four home fixtures – in their maiden 2011 season, they were beaten 34-32 by the Sharks and 40-3 by the Stormers, whilst last year the Cheetahs edged them 33-26 (courtesy of Piet van Zyl’s dramatic injury-time try) and the Bulls saw them off 41-35 in a ding-dong encounter.

    In South Africa, the men from Melbourne have also always finished on the losing side from six matches, and this season’s fruitless two-game tour included that particularly embarrassing 64-7 drubbing from the Sharks at Kings Park on March 23.

    So the Rebels will be well aware that they have probably their best opportunity yet to finally get one over a South African conference team when they entertain Andries Strauss’s increasingly confident troops from the Eastern Cape.

    After the Kings achieved that awe-inspiring draw in Canberra with the pace-setting Brumbies last Friday – including achieving a superior haul of three log points from the match because they got four tries – some pundits could hardly be blamed for thinking they might actually be favourites as a result to go one better and earn a first-time overseas win this Saturday.

    But then, a day after the Kings’ Canberra heroics, the Rebels put their camp upheaval – including the much-publicised Kurtley Beale disciplinary affair – behind them to record a mild-upset 30-23 away triumph over the Force in Perth.

    It may well have done wonders for their flagging self-belief, so that old fox Alan Solomons and the rest of the Kings’ brains trust will know that they can’t simply pitch up and expect their hosts to roll over this weekend; the game has a 50-50 feel to it and bookies appear to slightly back the Aussie outfit.

    Still, a Kings victory would go the longest way yet to confirming their suitability to Super Rugby status in the medium- to longer-term, regardless of whether they still end up being the ones tackling the Lions in the scheduled promotion/relegation clashes ahead.

    After all, those embittered by the manner of the Kings’ ascension to the competition this year were quick to say they would really be exposed as inadequate on their Australasian travels – they have not been truly embarrassed yet, despite a record of two losses in New Zealand and then that stalemate with the Brumbies.

    If the Kings do win, there is also the not insignificant matter of their drawing a lot closer to (or even having a long-shot chance of leapfrogging) the struggling Stormers after the weekend’s programme.

    Should, for instance, the Kings prevail with a bonus point, and the particularly injury-weakened Capetonians are later thumped by the Sharks at Newlands, the Eastern Cape side might draw level on points with the Stormers on 16 after seven outings each.

    As things stand, last year’s conference winners, currently languishing in fourth with only the Kings behind them, also boast a considerably better “for and against” record (minus six as opposed to minus 59).

    But things could get very tight, nevertheless, if the Kings do earn a triumph and the Stormers lose again, especially when it is considered that the latter haven’t even started their always tricky overseas assignments yet ...

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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