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Sat Apr 19 17:16:38 SAST 2014

Rooting for Southern Kings to baffle critics

Simnikiwe Xabanisa | 21 February, 2013 00:37

A bit like there aren't that many people who thought Kamp Staaldraad was a good idea, very few people are admitting to supporting the Southern Kings ahead of their Super 15 debut.

The day nobody thought would ever come - not the Kings and certainly not the rugby public - is almost upon us, and there's no shortage of people wishing the Eastern Cape side will spill the opportunity over the tryline, as it were.

History tells us that the Kings, like other recent inclusions on Super rugby debut, will knock on come Saturday by losing to the Western Force.

But it won't stop me from being desperate for them to do well this season.

There are many reasons for my excitement.

As an Eastern Cape boy who grew up when Border were given 13-point head-starts and still lost in the old Currie Cup cross-section, I never thought I'd see a team from that part of the world play Super rugby.

The people bitching against the Kings' inclusion in the competition are overlooking the fact that Cheeky Watson's men are South Africa's first genuinely new contribution in 17 years of Super rugby.

I must also admit that deep down a niggly part of me wants to see the Lions' apologists squirm in the belief that their team should be playing while the Kings do just as badly as their side would have done.

But forget the negatives, there's a lot to be curious about when it comes to the Kings.

I'm interested in which Luke Watson will lead the team from the tunnel.

When I first met him, Watson said a lot of things I agreed with (no, not the D-word slur or the puke bits), but I felt he was a typical man in his early 20s.

He came across as thinking he knew everything and seemed to walk around with the assumption that the world had been waiting for a while for him to solve its problems in one fell swoop.

At 29 he appears to have learnt the lessons we all learn in life: that you don't change the world as much as it changes you.

If you don't believe that, his apology for saying rugby was run by Dutchmen is a case in point for his maturity.

I'm also excited by the arrival of winger and Grey High School product Sergeal Petersen, who played Craven Week rugby for Eastern Province just last year. The 18-year-old is a former sprinter who ran the 100m in 10.55sec.

On a more personal note, I'd also like to see how fellow old Dalian Bandise Maku fares in a position of leadership, having played second fiddle for the Gauteng teams.

There will be dark mutterings about how unfair it is that the Kings are playing Super rugby at all, and the fact that there aren't noticeably more black players in their team to play the Force at the weekend.

But fairness is giving another team an opportunity to be as crap as the Lions have been for the past 10 years.

And anybody who cannot see the mitigating circumstances for the Kings ending up with less players of colour than they would have wanted is being disingenuous.

There is the question of what doing well will mean for the Kings.

At a statistical level, it would be to beat the Rebels' record of three wins in their debut season.

But, given the supposed frailties of their tight five, we might have to satisfy ourselves with other measures of success, such as the style of rugby that they play.

Either way, I'll be in their corner right up to the promotion/relegation play-off against the Lions.

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Sat Apr 19 17:16:38 SAST 2014 ::