Southern Kings wing Yaw Penxe says there are encouraging aspects from their 2019-20 PRO14 season that the team can build on when it resumes.
The Kings may have broken their away duck by beating the Ospreys in Swansea this season but that remained their only victory in 2019-20, with the team rooted to the bottom of their conference when the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Port Elizabeth side have also suffered heavy losses on the road to the Glasgow Warriors (50-0), Cheetahs (45-0), Edinburgh (61-13) and Munster (68-3).
However, there have been a few games – particularly at home – that with a bit more experience and quality in their side the Kings may have won. There were tight home losses to the Cheetahs (31-30) and Cardiff Blues (31-27) that could have gone either way.
‘We had a few close calls this season, playing well for 60 minutes and then we would drop off in the end,’ Penxe told the Springboks’ website.
‘We spoke about carrying through that form for 80 minutes before lockdown as we had another eight games lined up with a few of them at home. So that is something we will definitely continue to work on when we get back together as a team.
‘Another encouraging aspect was the number of young players that grabbed the chance to prove their worth, so we have a good base to build from going forward.’
Penxe has scored an impressive eight tries in 2019-20 despite missing the start of the season through injury, placing him in the top 10 on the try-scorers list.
The 23-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise since running out for the Junior Springboks at 19. Reflecting on his journey, he said playing for the Junior Springboks was vital in helping him launch his senior career.
‘It was a big switch from playing in the SA Rugby U19 Championship to representing the Junior Springboks, and that experience really equipped me well for senior rugby.
‘It was another jump from that level to professional rugby, and looking back I thoroughly enjoyed the path to this level.
‘Representing my country in the World Rugby U20 Championship is one of my career highlights, along with making my Vodacom Super Rugby debut against the Lions and scoring the match-winning try in the PRO14 against Edinburgh in Port Elizabeth last season.’
Although Penxe was among the players linked with a move away from Port Elizabeth, he said he is still enjoying playing in the PRO14.
‘It is really exciting to play in the PRO14,’ he said.
‘It is different to the domestic competitions mainly because of the conditions. The northern-hemisphere weather is more conducive to tight tactical rugby, so as a winger you have to be prepared for a string of box kicks.’
Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images