The EP Kings return to Super Rugby next year - to be known as the Southern Kings, but they’re pretty much one and the same - and with just over six months to go to kick-off in that competition the Currie Cup is going to be crucial for their preparations.
To the chagrin of many, the Kings were entrenched in the Currie Cup Premier Division for two years (2014 and 2015) to help them get up to speed for their return to Super Rugby next season - after playing in the 2013 edition - but it seems they could be in for a rocky return to the tough Southern hemisphere inter-provincial competition.
They picked up just one win from 10 matches, finishing last in the eight-team Currie Cup Premier Division last year, and in the south section of the Vodacom Cup earlier this year managed a fifth place out of eight teams; with three wins from seven matches. Of the 16 teams that took part they were 10th in total points bagged.
But it’s not only been on the field where things have not gone according to plan. The Kings have been in the news most recently because of discontent among the players over unpaid wages - which have apparently now been paid - while former coach Carlos Spencer also had a financial dispute with the union. On top of that, and with days to go before the Currie Cup kicks off, there is still no word on a title sponsor for the team.
It is a most unfortunate state of affairs. The Eastern Cape produces some of the finest schoolboy players in the country and there is a rich history of rugby in the region. They really should be able to field a team that is more competitive than they’ve been and one can only feel for the players and fans who are craving rugby of the highest order.
The next few weeks will give us a good indication of the Kings’ readiness for Super Rugby. But, with the union battling to sign some seasoned campaigners, one senses they could find the going tough in the Currie Cup. And, we all know how big the jump is from the domestic competition to facing the best Australia and New Zealand can offer.
We’ll know at the end of October just how much the men from the Eastern Cape have developed since they last played Super Rugby. Sadly, I’ve got a feeling their being entrenched in the Premier Division has done little to help them become a force, good enough to call themselves Super Rugby ready. But, let’s see.
Original source: King-sized task for EP team