Craig Lewis

New testing times for Kings

Kings players wave to their home fans Kings players wave to their home fans

The Kings face a testing few weeks ahead as they look to ensure a new-look squad is suitably prepared for their entry into the Pro14, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

The Eastern Cape franchise were the surprise package of this Super Rugby season, which saw them record six memorable victories, beating the likes of the Jaguares, Waratahs and Bulls away from home.

However, the big question remains whether the Kings will be able to translate that form into the Pro14, with the Port Elizabeth-based side set to make their competition debut against Ulster on 2 September.

Although this opening clash is just over three weeks away, it’s believed that the Kings are still working to finalise their squad for this tournament, with a settled group having yet to assemble for training.

As it is, a host of the Kings’ frontline Super Rugby players have headed overseas or to other unions.

Star backline players Malcolm Jaer and Makazole Mapimpi have signed with the Cheetahs, while forwards Tyler Paul and Ross Geldenhuys have joined the Sharks. Influential flanker Chris Cloete has linked up with Munster, regular captain Lionel Cronjé has headed to Japan, while lock Wilhelm van der Sluys has agreed to a deal with the Exeter Chiefs.

It also remains to be seen whether key performers Andisa Ntsila and Luzuko Vulindlu will be released from South Western Districts to form part of the Kings’ squad.

Coach Deon Davids is believed to have been working furiously behind the scenes to ensure a competitive squad can be put together, while engaging with other unions to see if there are players available to join the Kings on loan.

There is also no formal clarity as yet whether Davids will be staying on with the Kings for the foreseeable future.

With the start of the Pro14 fast approaching, the Kings once again look set to start a new campaign with a hastily assembled squad that will need to dig deep in order to ensure they offer a fair representation of the competitive spirit that made them such popular performers this Super Rugby season.

Photo: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix

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