Kings face struggle to be ready for Pro12

    2017-07-25 13:45

    Lloyd Burnard - Sport24

    Port Elizabeth - While there has still be no official confirmation, the Kings and Cheetahs are expected to be unveiled as new entrants into Europe's Pro12 in the coming days. 

    And while that is fantastic news for both of those franchises considering that they have been axed from Super Rugby 2018, it does come with its own set of unique challenges. 

    The new-look tournament is expected to get underway in September, which leaves both franchises with roughly two months (probably less) to get their houses in order for the new competition. 

    For the Kings and coach Deon Davids, it is a serious challenge, based largely on player availability. 

    "A lot of the players would have loved to stay but at the time there was a lot of uncertainty in terms of where we were going, Davids told Sport24 on Tuesday.

    "A lot of the players accepted Currie Cup contracts at other unions and deals overseas, so there is not a lot of continuity that is going to take place.

    "The biggest concern is that if we have to now go into an international competition that starts in September it will be a totally new squad that has to be put together. We will be in the same position we were in in 2016, which is very concerning."

    Davids is no stranger to being thrown into the deep end. 

    Ahead of the 2016 Super Rugby season the Kings were in financial ruin and had to be rescued by SA Rugby. Davids was given a group of players that had not played together and asked to turn them into a competitive force in no time at all. 

    Naturally, the 2016 season was a struggle for the Port Elizabeth-based side as they limped to just two wins all year. 

    But, in 2017, Davids sparked a revival that saw the Kings win six of their 15 matches to finish ahead of the Bulls, Cheetahs, Sunwolves, Force, Reds, Waratahs and Rebels on the overall log. 

    Along the way, they developed a reputation for being a side that could attack from anywhere and they scored some scintillating tries.

    Now, should they relocate to the Pro12 - or Pro14 - as expected, they will have to start over.

    Davids, though, does not want to alter too much in the way of philosophy.  

    "I don't think I will change my approach a lot," he said.

    "I think players need to have options available to execute what is needed without changing too much. We have to sit down and see what challenges we will face in the new competition."

    Weather conditions are an obvious factor.

    "If it is in Europe, then some games we will play in extreme conditions when it's cold and wet," the coach said.

    "Then when we come back home it will be totally dry fields. We have to adapt when we go over there and they will have to adapt when they come over here.

    "We will have to find a balance and make sure that we have systems and structures in place that enable us to do that, and we will have to have the players that can play according to that plan.

    "The basics will stay the same. The set pieces will have to be strong, whether you play here or there. Your playmakers will have to have the ability to either to attack the line well or have a good kicking game."

    Davids said he is expecting official confirmation of where he his side will play this week. He knows that he is in for a proper challenge.

    "There is never enough time to prepare. It's going to be a huge ask, to be honest," he acknowledged.

    "I've got no idea when we will start, what the squad will look like, what players are available ... it's going to be very difficult.

    "At this point in time it's just a 'wait and see' situation."

    The other minor issue is that Davids' contract with SA Rugby expires at the end of the year, which would fall mid-tournament. 

    But there is still time to sort that out and it is hard to see SA Rugby or the Kings looking elsewhere after the hugely impressive season the Kings have just had under Davids.

    "I have enjoyed my time at the franchise and I think it's a special place with special people," he said.

    "If I am given the opportunity to build something special I would enjoy to be a part of it. I know it's going to be hard work, but we've shown that with the right people and plan we can achieve things.

    "It will require a lot of patience and a lot of effort ... it's a project that I think will maybe shine in the next three or four years. For the first year or so it will be very tough."

    Follow Sport24 journalist @LloydBurnard on Twitter...

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