Duncan back in Kings coaching frame

Former Cheetahs head coach Rory Duncan has emerged as a contender to become the new Isuzu Southern Kings head coach.
Former Cheetahs head coach Rory Duncan has emerged as a contender to become the new Isuzu Southern Kings head coach.

Now that Jake White has taken his name out of the hat, Rory Duncan may re-emerge as the hot favourite to be crowned as the new Isuzu Southern Kings  head coach.

Rugby World Cup winning coach  White has been appointed director of rugby at the struggling Blue Bulls, the South African franchise has announced.

In January, Kings chair Loyiso Dotwana has had a meeting with former Springbok coach Jake White about the progress his team are making in the Guinness PRO14.

However, the Kings are still remaining tight-lipped about who will become their permanent head coach.

Last year it was revealed that Duncan, a former EP Kings player had withdrawn from the process.

Duncan is the head coach of English Premiership team Worcester Warriors, but has been given permission to talk to other clubs.

He is believed to have been among four candidates initially interviewed for the job in 2019.

It is not known why Duncan pulled out, but Samoa coach Steve Jackson was then understood to be the favourite to succeed Deon Davids who left the Kings.

Later it emerged that Jackson has also withdrawn his interest in taking over at the Kings.

That resulted in the Kings appointing their high performance director Robbi Kempson as interim head coach.

Kempson has made it clear he does not want the job on a full-time basis and would like to revert to his original position of high performance director.

“Jake White came to Port Elizabeth to watch the cricket Test match between the Proteas and England, and also to visit friends,” Dotwana said.

“We happened to also be at the cricket match and used the opportunity to talk to him about rugby matters, including whether he had been after any of our matches.

“Subsequently, we had dinner with him for further discussions on his views and the progress he may have noticed since the start of the current season.

“As we have previously stated, the search to identify and appoint a head coach for the Isuzu Southern Kings is still an ongoing progress.” 

White, 56, led the Springboks to the Webb Ellis trophy in 2007 and has had spells with Australia’s Brumbies, France’s Montpellier and most recently Toyota Verblitz in Japan.

“His credentials speak for itself and we know his contributions are only going to improve our rugby across the board,” the Bulls’ CEO Alfonso Meyer said in a statement.

“Jake’s appointment is yet another step in the right direction as we endeavour to take this brand into a new era,” he added.

White has signed a deal to keep him at Loftus Versfeld until the 2023 World Cup and takes over after Alan Zondagh stepped down in February.

The Pretoria-based Bulls had recorded just one victory in six games before the Super Rugby season was put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We need to rebuild a winning culture at Loftus, and that will no doubt bring the fans back to their beloved Loftus Versfeld. This won’t be easy, but we are up for it,” White said.

Under Kempson, the Kings have won only one of their opening 13 Guinness PRO14 matches and are marooned at bottom of the log.

There have been five consecutive defeats at home, and only 1,892 fans watched the Kings lose to Connacht at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium  in the last match they played before the league was put on hold.

Asked whether he was alarmed by his team’s losing streak, Dotwana said: “Yes, we are not proud of the recent results, but we have not reached a stage of alarm.

“As we have indicated from the beginning, the success of this franchise — on and off the field — will not happen overnight.

“Ourselves, the coaches and the players are seeing the steady progress that this young team is making.”

“The Kings board continues the search for a head coach for the franchise. Once we have concluded the process, we will make the necessary announcements.

“Naturally the owners are disappointed with the results and every effort is being made to improve the team’s results.”