Despite showing ambition in their recruitment, the Kings’ failure to find a new head coach has seen them struggle badly once again, writes DYLAN JACK.
Following the departure of former head coach Deon Davids last year, the Kings effectively hit the reset button, bringing in a raft of new coaches and players before the 2019-20 season.
Unfortunately, this has meant that the franchise has once again struggled to compete on a consistent basis in the Pro14.
With 12 defeats from 13 games before the enforced break, the Kings boast the worst record in the Pro14 this season. They are last in the Conference B standings as well as the overall competition table.
This hardly matches the ambition the Kings showed with their recruitment in the pre-season. In came new assistant coaches in Braam van Straaten and Vuyo Zangqa as well as a new Head of Athletic Performance in highly-rated New Zealander Wayne Taylor.
There were also the arrivals of experienced players in flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis and centre Howard Mnisi as well as some exciting young talent in Elrigh Louw, JT Jackson and Courtney Winnaar.
However, possibly the Kings’ biggest mistake this season was to do all this recruitment before actually finding Davids’ replacement.
That process was unfortunately badly botched. The Greatest Rugby Company (GRC), the majority shareholder of the Kings, wisely decided to openly advertise for the position, but then appointed a seven-man panel to sift through the applications and hold interviews with potential candidates.
The process of finding a new coach was ultimately derailed following the confusion surrounding a World Rugby Level 3 qualification, which was a critical criteria for the job.
The Kings initially said that only one of their shortlisted candidates had this certificate, which led to media reports that former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers had been ruled out of contention.
However, De Villiers took to social media to post his coaching credentials, which included a Wales Level 3 certificate from 1996. World Rugby acknowledges the Wales Level 3 qualification as an equivalent.
The next day the Kings confirmed that De Villiers was still a subject of interest from their panel, before announcing shortly afterwards that the entire process had been put on ice due to media leaks from their panel.
Effectively, this meant that Director of Rugby Robbie Kempson took over as the new head coach initially on an interim basis before it was decided in December 2019 that he would remain in the role until the end of the season. This was not the most ideal situation as Kempson was balancing three jobs as he continued his role as a commentator and pundit with SuperSport.
The Kings have all the resources to become a successful team in the Pro14. What they really are lacking at this point, is an experienced head to pull everyone together and guide them in the right direction.
Former Bok coach Jake White was linked with a role with the team, but it now appears that he is bound for the Vodacom Bulls as either a Director of Rugby or head coach. This is a pity, because the Kings desperately could have used his guidance heading into the 2020-21 season and beyond.
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