They’re probably still on a hiding to nothing in this year’s Super Rugby campaign but at least the Kings feel more upbeat about their pre-season training.
Last year was, frankly, a shambles.
Late contracting – due to EP Rugby’s administrative mess – meant an already under-powered squad hardly had the time to gel.
The lack of continuity in the group of players remains to an extent, yet the training schedule has been more normal.
“We were fortunate this time that we were able to start a bit earlier,” said Deon Davids, the Kings coach.
“Unfortunately, we did start a bit late with some of the contracting because of certain circumstances, but we are much ahead in comparison with where we were last year. We have had two wonderful months of pre-season.”
Given South Africa’s tough player market, Davids and his South African Rugby Union-appointed coaching staff rely on mixed bag of promising youngsters and loaned rejects from other franchises.
Unsurprisingly, Davids is diplomatic about how his players are coping.
“It has been quite interesting and challenging. Some of the guys have not really been used to the workload, some responded well,” he said.
“Each individual progressed and got better as we went through the preseason. Under the circumstances, we were lucky to be able to put together a reasonable squad of talented players.”
Conditioning has been the Kings’ biggest focus to date.
“We all know that last year we struggled a bit in the last 20 to 30 minutes because we did not have a pre-season. This year we have laid the foundation. If we continue to build on this, then we will be able to do better,” said Davids.
It’s debatable whether the franchise’s two friendlies against the Border Bulldogs (4 February) and South Western Districts (11 February) will be competitive in that regard.
Yet that’s not really the aim for Davids.
“The two friendlies will be all about ourselves,” he said.
“We have worked on a few things and we are excited to see if we can play at a certain tempo. We are excited to see the things we have learnt from our previous experiences .”