Kings desperate for final flourish
After nine straight defeats, the EP Kings are desperate to end their return to the Currie Cup premier rugby division on a high when they host the Pumas in their final clash at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
It has been a sobering experience for the Kings players, who have been competitive at times but have not managed to produce the sort of consistency throughout the 80 minutes needed to match, much less beat, the big guns.
Now they face another team who have had lean pickings lately, but they know the Pumas, still with an outside chance of making the semis, will produce a massive onslaught to try to stay in the running.
Kings forwards coach Shaun Sowerby said it was essential for the Kings to put together a complete performance for the entire match to have any chance of winning.
"At times we have been good this season but we need a consistent effort throughout the match to pull off a victory," Sowerby said.
That is something we have not done this season and that's what we will be aiming to put together for this match."
Both Kings captain Darron Nell and coach Carlos Spencer spoke of their desire to end the season well.
"We want to end the Currie Cup off well and pull off a win for the home side, who have been so loyal," said Nell.
But he did not underestimate the challenge the Pumas will bring to Port Elizabeth.
"We have seen the same Pumas side for three or four years so they have a nice consistency," Nell said.
"We know what they will be bringing to us and don't think there will be many changes to what they have done before.
"It is always a good challenge and a game to get up for. We will expect them to come out firing."
It has been a frustrating season for former All Black Spencer, who said he did not expect to lose so many games.
"I always knew that it would be a process and would take time, but I did not expect to come here and lose nine on the trot," Spencer said.
"I believe we are on the right track and heading in the right direction, but we definitely know we have a lot of work to do. Now we know where we are, we just have to look forward and move forward.
"Let's get this game out of the way first. It would be nice to get a win so we can go on a little break knowing that we have a win."
Meanwhile, four straight defeats will have the Pumas hungry to re-discover the winning touch.
From being semi-final contenders, the Nelspruit team now need a bonus-point win over the Kings to keep alive their slim semi-final hopes.
Even if they achieve that, they will need other results to go their way in the Bulls-Griquas and Cheetahs-Lions matches. The Pumas are two points behind the Bulls and four behind the Cheetahs. If they can beat the Kings handsomely, they will be watching Saturday's matches with some anxiety, with their destiny out of their hands.
Coach Jimmy Stonehouse remains optimistic about the Pumas' chances.
"That is how teams have gotten into the semis before, so we hoping it happens to us," Stonehouse said.
"But we must end the season off with a victory."