Kings are not presumptuous
Kings are not presumptuousSHARE
It is one of the most anticipated matches of the year – the Southern Kings making their Super Rugby debut.
The Western Force, the tournament rookies' opponents at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday, will know exactly how heavy the burden of expectations can be ahead of your first match in this SANZAR showpiece.
Seven years ago – on February 10, 2006 – the Force welcomed the Brumbies to Perth and went down 10-25 – an inauspicious start in a season in which the Force won only one game, beating fellow newcomers the
Cheetahs in Round 13. And the Force has not exactly set the Super Rugby stage alight since – finishing 13th (2010), 12th (2011) and 14th (2012) in the last three years.
Like the Force back then, the Kings are not universally popular ahead of their debut.
While the Force had beaten off the challenges of a few other outfits in the Australian franchises bidding war, the Kings' entry into Super Rugby has been clouded in much more controversy – they replaced the Lions in a boardroom drama that has made them public enemy number one in Gauteng … and elsewhere in the country.
While the Eastern Cape fans, obviously, want the Kings to do well, there is an expectation and a strong desire from outside the region that the Port Elizabeth-based franchise will fail.
However, Kings captain Luke Watson said they are working hard on avoiding and ignoring the sideshows that are sure to resurface repeatedly this week ahead of their entry onto the Super Rugby stage.
"We focus more on the job at hand," Watson told this website in an exclusive interview from the team's Port Elizabeth base.
"We try and internalise things, control the things we can control and the things we can't control just leave them and let them be.
"We are very much internalising our motivation and inspiration and also our expectation – we are fully focussed on the task at hand."
Most pundits believe the Kings will struggle to win any of their games and will have to play in a promotion-relegation series against the Lions in August.
Watson said they can't look too far ahead and have to focus on the games in their immediate future.
"It [the promotion-relegation match] is for the team that is last on the South African standings and if that is us, then so be it," Watson told this website.
"We could, possibly, have just one shot at this [Super Rugby].
"We have to be as accurate and as effective as we can be to set targets and goals as to where on the standings we want to be.
"Every single team starts of the year saying: 'We can win this, let's win this.'
"Realistically, for us, we would like to be competitive and whatever that means, we would like to represent the Eastern Cape and South African rugby and do so proudly on the playing field.
"We would also like to be competitive at an international level – for us it is game-by-game and taking it as it comes and seeing what we are capable of as a side.
"As a side we don't have a history in this competition, so it would be presumptuous of us to set goals in stone.
"We can just take it game-by-game."
By Jan de Koning