The opening fortnight of PRO14 has been chastening for SA’s Cheetahs and Southern Kings after two hefty losses each and should serve as a huge wake-up call for both teams.
The Cheetahs have conceded 93 points and 14 tries after losing to Ulster and Munster on their short trip to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, while the Southern Kings have fared little better.
The Port Elizabeth-based club went down 32-10 to Irish club Connacht on Saturday‚ which followed a 57-10 thrashing by defending champions the Scarlets in round one.
It is not just losing that is a worry — especially for the Cheetahs‚ who are on paper much stronger than the Kings — it is the manner of defeat.
The Cheetahs conceded six tries against Ulster and eight against Munster on their way to 42-19 and 51-18 defeats.
Their scrum disintegrated against Munster. And the home team started three of their second-choice frontrowers.
These early skirmishes in PRO14 have highlighted the exceptional quality of rugby up north‚ due largely to impressive facilities and coaching.
The Kings and Cheetahs are not SA’s strongest teams‚ and they did start away against four of the tournament’s heavyweights‚ but besides the odd eye-catching try‚ they have brought little to the tournament.
Sound defence remains the most basic cornerstone of building a successful campaign and the men from Bloemfontein have ignored it.
They remain naively committed to all-out attack yet are confounded when faced with some of the most organised defences in world rugby.
The net result is a slew of turnovers from which they are being punished.
Kings coach Deon Davids is at least a little more pragmatic in his approach‚ knowing that his limited squad need to find ways to stop the opposition scoring to have any success.
Sadly, the Kings are rebuilding for a third time in 20 months and all the foundational work done in the most recent Super Rugby campaign has crumbled, with more than a dozen players moving on.