Kings driven by 'internal competition'
Kings driven by 'internal competition'SHARE
The return of first-choice captain Luke Watson highlights one of the strengths and internal driving forces in the Southern Kings set-up – depth.
Far from being the cannon fodder for other teams and lacking quality back-up staff to deal with injuries, the Kings have unearthed a few new gems and showed just how much depth there is in their squad.
Kings Director of Rugby Alan Solomons pointed to the quality of their cover as one of the reasons for their impressive performances in Australia – where they drew with the table-topping Brumbies and beat the Rebels.
Despite still rooted at the foot of the South African conference, the Kings are now a real threat to every team they face.
Solomons put it mildly when he said things were "looking positive" with the return of Watson – who will start at No.8, with Cornell du Preez moving to the flank and impressive Devin Oosthuizen dropping out of the matchday 22.
But the depth is also epitomised in the second and front row selections for the encounter with the Bulls this coming Saturday.
Darron Nell, one of the back-up players as captain when Watson was injured, has also returned from action.
However, he will spend another week with the Vodacom Cup team, while the vastly improved David Bulbring is back at lock in place of Rynier Bernardo – who drops to the bench.
The front row changes sees one-time Springbok hooker Bandise Maku and prop Kevin Buys return, while Hannes Franklin and Grant Kemp drop to the bench.
Solomons was obviously delighted to get back some of his frontline players for what is expected to be a bruising battle with the reinvigorated Bulls.
"What is very nice is that we have competition in lots of places," Solomons told this website, when asked about the returning players and those that did such an admirable job on tour.
"Those are positive things for us as there is a long, long way to go in this competition.
"The four locks that went on tour have all done well," the Kings boss said, adding: "We've got [Steven] Sykes, Rynier Bernardo, David Bulbring and Daniel Adonga.
"That was the fantastic part about the tour and beneficial [to us] in many ways.
"A tour always brings a group closer together and it certainly did in our case. Guys were given opportunities and they took those opportunities – there is now real competition going in the squad.
"There is competition in the front row, at loose forward and competition at lock.
"It is very, very good for the team in general.
"A guy like Grant Kemp, who never played Super Rugby till he went on tour – he gained some great experience playing against some really good opponents."
Returning to the selection of Watson, he said he was happy that the captain is up for the challenge he will face against a physical Bulls outfit.
"Luke got through the full 80 minutes [in a Vodacom Cup match] last week and got the physical engagement that he needed.
"He has also been training very hard," he said of the Bok loose forward – who has been sidelined since he took a sickening blow to the throat in the opening match against the Western Force.
By Jan de Koning