Threatened Southern Kings stun Waratahs in Sydney
South Africa's endangered Southern Kings rose above the turmoil of their very Super Rugby existence with a spirited 26-24 upset win over the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney on Friday.
The Port Elizabeth-based Kings, who are fighting to stay in next year's competition, fought back from 17-0 down to win only their fourth game in two years.
The Kings, who are consigned to the scrapheap in 2018 as part of SANZAAR's restructuring, trailed 17-7 at half-time but scored the next 19 points before the woeful Waratahs scored a last-minute converted consolation try to claim a losing bonus point.
It was a sterling effort from the Kings and a performance that was hailed by their captain and fly-half Lionel Cronje.
"It has been an absolutely emotional tour for us with all the news regarding Super Rugby," Cronje said.
"There has been a lot of pressure on our administrators, our families at home and you can imagine all the pressure on our players hearing all the news being away from home.
"It's amazing to be able to pull a game through like this and to get a victory against the Waratahs who have been Super Rugby champions.
"It just gives so much credit to our team and the management for fighting through a good game and to come away with the win."
The Kings, despite the huge off-field distractions, have been competitive on their Australian tour, losing 46-41 to Western Force and 47-34 to the Queensland Reds and this time they claimed their biggest scalp.
The South African strugglers reversed a record 72-10 loss to the Waratahs in their only previous meeting in Port Elizabeth four years ago.
The Waratahs looked on track for a much-needed bonus-point win after opening up a 17-0 lead with three first-half tries before the Kings hit back with tries to Justin Forwood, Masixole Banda and Michael Willemse.
But the Kings clinched victory with a penalty try awarded after a succession of scrum binding errors in the final minutes.
The Waratahs grabbed an after-the-siren bonus point with a consolation try to winger Taqele Naiyaravoro, who opened the scoring with the first try of the night.
Captain Michael Hooper was scathing about his team's dreadful showing before their home fans.
"It was a pretty embarrassing performance from us," he said. "There was a lot of talk, not much action. It's going to be a tough weekend."
The sorry defeat leaves the Waratahs languishing eight points adrift of the Brumbies on the Australian conference standings.
The Kings now return home with their next game against the Melbourne Rebels in Port Elizabeth on April 30, while the Waratahs have an Australian derby against the Queensland reds in Brisbane on April 29.