Home team lost two captains in one day
The Southern Kings continued to defy pre-match predictions when they made the defending-champion Chiefs work hard for a 35-24 Super Rugby win in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
If courage and commitment were enough for victory, the Kings would be runaway winners. In fact they are winners.
They have won the respect of the rugby world, they have won over many sceptics and they have won the hearts of their city. The Kings and Port Elizabeth deserve to be in Super Rugby. Once again there were well over 30 000 enthusiastic spectators in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
The Kings have risen above criticism that bordered on derision. And on Friday night they stood up against more adversity.
Having lost their captain, Luke Watson, to injury in the first match of the season, they then lost their stand-in captain a minute before kick-off, as Darron Nell strained a calf muscle. Then in the second half their captain on the match, Steven Sykes, went off injured. They also lost their impish, creative fullback SP Marais to an injury midway through the first half. And still they were not cowed and at the end were just off a bonus point for being honourable losers.
Defence is half the game but not enough, not enough against the sleight of hand of the Chiefs and the wonderful patterns they weave on attack. Their game is not just pretty. It starts from lots of grunt up front, especially at the tackle area where they made life hard for the Kings.
It was a great moment for a great player when Liam Messam led his team out onto the field in his 100th Super Rugby match, the first Chief to such an achievement.
Right from the start the Chiefs attacked. From a free kick at the first scrum, they went far right and then far left in what seemed an endless line of players across the field. Tackled at the corner Ben Afeaki got the ball back inside but with defenders bouncing around Toby Smith lost the ball.
After a maul Andrew Horrell broke and hooker Hika Elliot was close. But still the dyke held.
Dimitri Catrakelis was penalised for playing a man without the ball when Tim Nanai-Williams lost the bell nanoseconds before the tackle, Gareth Anscombe of the reliable boot goaled. 3-0 after 10 minutes.
When Afeaki was penalised at a tackle, Catrakelis of the reliable boot made it 3-3 after 13 minutes and three minutes later it was 6-3 when Kevin Buys was penalised at a tackle.
The Chiefs counterattacked going wide right, then wide left and then again wide right where Lelia Masaga scored the first of his hat-trick of tries.
When Wimpie van der Walt went off for blood, his place was taken by Argentinian Thomas Leonardi who later in the game replaced Sykes. He was magnificent in both bits of game.
A penalty gave the Kings a five-metre line-out. They mauled and Sykes was close. Leonardi stretched for the goal-line but lost the ball in the process.
Messam was penalised for playing the man without the ball and Catrakelis made it 13-6 after 28 minutes. Against the Stormers, the Chiefs were penalised three times for this offence and once earned a yellow card. In this match Messam, Tanerau Latimer and Brodie Retallick were penalised for playing a man without the ball - an offence SANZAR highlighted two weeks ago.
There was a wonderful bit of intricacy as Aaron Cruden and Nanai-Williams combined to attack and send Masaga over in the right corner. 18-6 after 30 minutes.
Then came a moment to send Port Elizabeth delight soaring heaven high.
The Chiefs were attacking going left. Masaga from the right wing was involved and Cruden sent him a pass, which the wing dropped. Sergeal Petersen, the 18-year-old darling of rugby in the Eastern Cape, grabbed the bouncing ball and raced off 92 metres for a try under the posts. 18-13, which was the half-time score.
Form the start the Chiefs attacked and Elliot was held up over the line - by young Pietersen. This resulted in a five-metre scrum. The Chiefs bashed and Sam Cane scored. 25-13 after 49 minutes.
There was a bit of bashing about near the half-way line when Tawera Kerr-Barlow fed Craig Clarke who gave to Masaga on the overlap. He sped down the tight touchline and scored his side's bonus-point try in the corner. Anscombe converted from touch. 32-13 after 53 minutes.
The Chiefs were attacking again when first Catrakelis and then Pietersen flykicked downfield and the Chiefs were hard-pressed to prevent the try.
The Kings kicked a penalty out for a line-out. They mauled and bashed and were right at the line when Augustine Pulu blocked the ball at a tackle and was sent to the sin bin.
The Kings had a five-metre line-out from the penalty and bashed again. This time No.8 Jacques Engelbrecht scored. 32-18.
The Kings attacked and bashed from another line-out but their only score was two penalty goals as they sought a bonus point. That made the score 32-24 with 9 minutes to play. But the only score after that was penalty by Anscombe when Pietersen tripped an opponent.
There was a lot in the match that was good.
Man of the Match: Lelia Masaga scored a hat-trick of tries and Liam Messam played his 100th match with his usual application but our choice is hooker Hika Elliot who does all that a hooker should do and a whole lot more.
For the Southern Kings:
Tries: Petersen, Engelbrecht
Pens: Catrakilis 4
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Masaga 3, Cane
Cons: Anscombe 3
Pens: Anscombe 3
Yellow card: Augustine Pulu (Chiefs, 60 - professional foul)
Southern Kings: 15 SP Marais, 14 Marcello Sampson, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Sergeal Petersen, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Steven Sykes (captain), 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Jaco Engels, 18 Thomas Leonardi, 19 Daniel Adongo, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Andries Strauss.
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Ross Filipo, 7 Tanerau Latimer 6 Liam Messam, 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Craig Clarke (captain), 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Brodie Retallick, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Charlie Ngatai, 22 Patrick Osborne.
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha (South Africa), Christie du Preez (South Africa)
TMO: Johann Meuwessen (South Africa)