Solomons: We have earned respect
Bookmakers are still offering generous odds on the Kings, but Alan Solomons believe they have already done enough to deserve more respect.
Bookmakers are still offering generous odds on the Southern Kings, but Director of Rugby Alan Solomons believe they have already done enough to deserve more respect.
The Super Rugby rookies host the defending champion Chiefs in Port Elizabeth on Friday night and most bookmakers are handing the Kings a handicap in the region of 20 points.
Some pundits even regard that as a good bet, suggesting the Kings' bubble will burst and they are likely to leak plenty of points.
After beating the Western Force 22-10 in their debut in Super Rugby and then giving last year's beaten finalists, the Sharks a good run for their money (losing 12-21) Solomons feel his team showed they are worthy of a place at the top table.
"We have to keep trying to build and keep improving every game," Solomons told this website in an interview during the team's build-up to Friday's encounter with the New Zealand visitors.
"We have to develop on what is there," he said of his own franchise, adding: "There is no doubt how dangerous the Chiefs are, after all they are the defending champions.
"We're aware of the fact that they are the most dangerous side in Super Rugby."
While the opening two matches would have given the players the belief that they can compete with the tournament's big guns, Solomons said that if his team's main goal is to ensure they get some parity in terms of possession.
"The key is that we must have the ball to be able to play," the Kings boss said, adding: "That is something we lacked, possession - particularly in that first half [against the Sharks] and that made things difficult for us.
"What was very important for us was to back up that first performance [a win against the Force], which we did, and that was excellent.
"We are now into the competition. We are appreciative that this is going to be an extremely tough game - we are playing last year's two finalists back-to-back and we are looking forward to that challenge.
"I would like to think that after first two performances, particularly the last one [against the Sharks] backing up the first one [against the Western Force] that we have earned a measure of respect.
"We know we have a tough competition and tough opposition.
"Now that we are into the competition we have to take it, like all sides do, on a week-by-week basis.
"This is going to be a huge challenge at the weekend."
Solomons felt the one aspect his team needs drastic improvement in is securing and maintaining possession.
"I think it is important that we get our hands on the ball, it is important not to make errors. If we do make errors, not only will we be deprived of the ball, but this [the Chiefs] is a very dangerous attacking side.
"We have to look for a lot of accuracy in our play."
The Kings mentor is not concerned about his team's set pieces.
"I feel our set pieces are fine. We win the bulk of our line-outs, and we are continuing to improve on that.
"There were some scrums where we struggled, but we were up against a monster [Sharks] scrum - Beast [Tendai Mtawarira] and Jannie [du Plessis] are among the top looseheads and tightheads in the world.
"That [Sharks] side had five guys in the starting XV for the Springboks and another three from the Boks' bench.
"We came through that and I feel we have to build on that and I feel it is very important that our set piece is solid on the weekend."
By Jan de Koning