Cronje's winning kick takes Davids down memory lane
REACTION: Lionel Cronje's match-winning penalty in the 82nd minute against the Bulls last weekend has brought back a few memories for Southern Kings head coach Deon Davids. Josh Isaacson reports.
Cronje's heroics handed the Kings a historic 31-30 Super Rugby victory over the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.
The victory over the Bulls was the Kings second-ever Super Rugby victory over a fellow South African team, with their only other victory against local opposition coming in a 35-32 victory over the Sharks at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in May.
Cronje has led the Kings with passion and distinction throughout the 2017 Super Rugby tournament and he is playing some fantastic rugby at the moment - putting his backline players into space with ball in hand and using the boot to good effect when required.
Cronje only joined the Kings at the beginning of the 2017 Super Rugby season having spent the past few years as a journeyman, gathering experience and playing rugby for various teams, some of which include the Cheetahs, Stormers, Bulls, Lions, Sharks and the Brumbies.
Speaking to reporters after the game on the weekend, Davids recalled how he had identified Cronje's qualities as a leader after the flyhalf's heroics for the South Africa Under-20 side against France at the 2009 U20 World Championship in Japan.
"I've coached Lionel in 2009, for SA U20 in Japan and I remember the game against France. We were 0-20 down and looked up for someone to change the game for us and Lionel put up his hand. I will never forget that picture," explained Davids.
Davids added that he always knew Cronje was the right man to lead the Eastern Cape franchise during the 2017 Super Rugby season.
"He comes from the area, the Eastern Cape, and I knew that he has the qualities, not just as a player in terms of his skills, but also in terms of his knowledge about the game and his personality in terms of leading the guys on and off the field," commented Davids.
Cronje will be joining the Toyota Verblitz in Japan after the Kings close the chapter on their Super Rugby history with a clash against the Cheetahs at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
However, Cronje insisted that he is not lost to Eastern Cape rugby and he will return to play for the Kings in years to come.
"I've spoken to coach [Davids].
"I would like to come back to the Eastern Cape to represent them [Southern Kings] again.
"I come from a background where I need to be loyal to people, who trust me with the opportunity and I would like to come back and give more back to the Eastern Cape after that. So, if that opportunity arises I would love to do that," said an emotional and proud Cronje.
By Josh Isaacson