The expansion of the Super Rugby tournament has taken the sport into unchartered areas this season, with fixtures in cities such as Buenos Aires and Tokyo now a regular feature.
With the good aspects of expansion comes the bad, and certainly some ugly truths around the new-look tournament. The introduction of three new franchises in the Kings, Sunwolves and Jaguares to the competition has given players and coaches exposure – both good and bad – to top-flight rugby at an intercontinental level.
The Kings though, coached by former Junior Springbok assistant coach Deon Davids, have been on the receiving end of some crushing losses so far this season.
Conceding an average of 48 points per game and managing to only respond with an average of 19 themselves, it goes without saying that they are a bit off the pace of their fellow newcomers.
To get a fair reflection of just how much the Kings’ defence has struggled, let’s put their campaigns up against other first seasons from new teams over the last decade – the Rebels and Force, in 2011 and 2006 – along with the Sunwolves and Jaguares.
The Rebels, who are currently at the top of the Australian Conference table five years on from their first season, conceded an average of 36 points back in 2011, while the Force’s record was a mammoth 44 points back in 2006.
However in their second seasons the Rebels improved to conceding an average of only 33 points, while the Force halved their number to a mere 22.
The Kings first crack at Super Rugby came in the 2013 season and during their 16 matches they conceded 36 points per game, the same as the Rebels in their maiden campaign.
Despite their turnstile defence, there are some Kings players that have grabbed the attention of incoming Springbok head coach Allister Coetzee.
Workhorse flanker CJ Velleman has made the highest number of tackles (95) by any South African, while the sensational try-scoring hooker Edgar Marutlulle has crossed the whitewash on three occasions this season, despite being sidelined due to injury for a few weeks.
Those bright performances however aren’t enough to gloss over the Kings’ shortcomings. They are struggling to establish a gameplan that allows them to play to their strengths.
It would seem as if Davids wants to cap just about every player in the franchise, given he is yet to name an unchanged side. His team in fairness have been hit with injuries but chopping and changing key positions – like his half-back pairing or front row combinations – isn’t doing the players’ morale any good.
The Sunwolves are currently averaging 41 points per game for their eight games this season and the Jaguares, who have played one more game than the other two newcomers, are conceding only 28 points on average.
With an average of 48 points against them over eight games, the Kings have shown no signs of shoring up their defence to stop leaking more tries.
In the painful post mortem of this season, those involved with the Kings will not look back on 2016 fondly.