Southern Kings' scrum in the spotlight

A scrum during the Guinness Pro14 match between Isuzu Southern Kings and Toyota Cheetahs at NMMU Stadium on January 18, 2019 in Port Elizabeth.
A scrum during the Guinness Pro14 match between Isuzu Southern Kings and Toyota Cheetahs at NMMU Stadium on January 18, 2019 in Port Elizabeth.
Image: Michael Sheehan

Although they are long dogged by off-the-field imbroglio‚ Southern Kings coach Deon Davids chose to zero in on their on-field afflictions ahead of their Pro 14 match against Edinburgh in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

The Kings‚ who are hoping to snap an eight-match losing streak‚ will have to find improvement in various areas‚ not least one of the game’s most engaging pursuits – the scrum.

Injury and defect has left Davids to lament his team’s lack of grunt in that area.

“We have a problem at prop‚” he said matter-of-factly‚ before laying bare the snowballing effect.

“It impacts our game. If you don’t have a solid scrum it means you concede penalties‚ which means you lose territory or concede points‚ so you are constantly at a disadvantage.

“It is an immense problem‚” said Davids‚ who added that because of injury or defection they have lost tightheads Pieter Scholtz‚ Rossouw de Klerk‚ Martin Dreyer and Vuyo Pupuma‚ plus looseheads Schalk Ferreira and Justin Forwood.

“It means we’ve had to bring in an under-21 prop and we’ve had to loan players from Griquas‚” explained the embattled coach.

Given their shortfall at close quarters‚ the Kings have tried to exploit space by playing an expansive brand of rugby when the conditions allow it.

They may be last in Conference B of the Pro 14 but they’ve scored only three tries fewer than Edinburgh‚ while matching perennial heavyweights Ulster on that count. They’ve scored more than Italian outfit Zebre and Welsh strugglers the Dragons.

While they may just about match Edinburgh in attack‚ the Scottish side are typically frugal when it comes to letting tries in. The Kings have conceded 55 tries in their 12 matches compared to Edinburgh’s 38 from 13 clashes.

Davids recognises the quality in the opposition under the tutelage of fiery coach‚ former England hooker Richard Cockerill.

“There is quality in their depth‚” said Davids‚ which is useful considering Edinburgh has lost 12 players to the Scotland squad.

David Cherry‚ Luke Crosbie and Chris Dean have‚ however‚ since been released to play this weekend. Allan Dell‚ WP Nel‚ Simon Berghan‚ Stuart McInally‚ Grant Gilchrist‚ Ben Toolis‚ Jamie Ritchie‚ Darcy Graham and Blair Kinghorn remain in national camp however.

“They play at a high tempo and have a very energetic style. If you don’t contain them‚ they will run away with you. They have a good winning culture‚” said Davids.

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