Super Rugby Review: Kings

Date published: July 18 2016

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With the Super Rugby quarter-finalists now decided we take a look at those teams who missed out. Next up, the Kings.

The Kings were back in Super Rugby, after a three-year break, but their return was marked by plenty of controversy and the men from Port Elizabeth were on the back-foot as soon it was revealed that they would be South Africa's sixth franchise in an expanded 18-team tournament.

They were given very little chance of succeeding as there were so much going on behind the scenes, with the beleagured franchise's financial woes at the centre of all their problems.

They suffered a big setback when their appointed coach Brent Janse van Rensburg resigned at the beginning of December 2015 and the failure of the franchise to pay their players' wages led to a group of disgruntled players handing over a petition to Kings president Cheeky Watson requesting a change of leadership and the payment of the money owed to them.

SA Rugby eventually took over the administration of the Kings and revealed that their mobi unit, under the guidance of high performance manager Rassie Erasmus, would help prepare the franchise for Super Rugby, with Deon Davids eventually taking over the reins as head coach less than three months before the start of the season.

The Kings' campaign started with a heavy defeat at home against the Sharks before they conceded 50 points in their next two matches, away to the Chiefs and Crusaders, before they delivered a spirited display against the Hurricanes in Wellington but eventually ran out of steam, losing a 42-20.

Although they managed to avoid it in that encounter, having a half century of points racked up against them became a regular occurrence for the Kings and they would suffer that fate on four more occasions during the season – against the Jaguares, Sharks, Lions and Stormers.

Although this was a season to forget, it wasn't all doom and gloom for the Kings with the performances of Edgar Marutlulle and Shane Gates particularly impressive and despite winning only two matches, they scored more tries than the Reds, Sunwolves and Western Force throughout the season.

The Kings eventually registered their first victory, in Round Six against tournament newbies the Sunwolves, but had to wait until Round 14 for their next victory, albeit a narrow one against the Jaguares who finished that match with 12 men due to ill discipline.

There were few positives to report during rest of the campaign, with a 48-18 defeat at home to the Highlanders their best result in their last three matches.

Best player: Despite all the setbacks at the Kings, one player who seemed to thrive in adversity in 2016 was Edgar Marutlulle. The nuggety hooker played in 13 of the Kings' 17 matches and played consistently well throughout their campaign. Marutlulle delivered several impressive all-round displays, scoring four tries in the process and was eventually rewarded with a call-up to the South Africa 'A' side for their their two-match series against the England Saxons in June.

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