Kings building 'something special'
The Kings are taking heart from the fact that Super Rugby's most successful team, the Crusaders, finished stone last in their debut season.
The Southern Kings may still have plenty of detractors, but they are taking heart from the fact that Super Rugby's most successful team, the Crusaders, finished stone last in their debut season.
Matt Sexton, a founding member of the seven-time champion Crusaders, has already coached the Kings to a more successful season than what his Christchurch-based former team achieved in 1996.
The Kings, following their heartwarming 34-27 triumph over the Highlanders at the weekend, now have three wins and a draw to their credit after 11 rounds - with a good chance of avoiding a last-placed finish.
This despite the 10-72 hammering at the hands of the Waratahs and a 20-55 loss to the Crusaders, the only other time they conceded more than 50 points.
Sexton, speaking to this website in an exclusive interview, pointed out that the Crusaders' start in Super Rugby was far more inglorious - with just two wins and a draw, finishing last in 1996. The Crusaders conceded 50 points or more on three occasions and 49 points on another.
The Kings coach said he is "excited" to be part of the Kings' development and feels there is "something special" happening in Port Elizabeth.
"We have had a few obstacles along the way," Sexton told this website, when asked about his time as Kings coach and how it compared with his time at the Crusaders back in the 1990s.
"The really pleasing things is the way that the team has come together," he said, adding: "There are no egos in this group, while everyone is fighting for each other and the region.
"The great thing is that we've had a lot of support from a region that has been starved of Super Rugby. Even after we lost our second match on tour, we arrived in Canberra with a room full of emails and best wishes, which was fantastic.
"It really helped the guys' morale - it is exciting to be part of this."
Having been part of the very successful Canterbury and Crusaders environment, Sexton was again very positive when asked to draw a comparison between the brands in Christchurch and PE.
"I actually played in 1996, the inaugural year of the Crusaders, and we ended up last in the competition - we had a very unsuccessful year.
"From there [last place] we built something and I think that is what is happening here [in PE].
"We are trying to build something that is going to be here for a long time.
"There is a lot of ingredients here similar to when I was with the Crusaders, very similar in nature.
"There is a very good player base here, good support, we've got a great stadium and people love rugby in this region - those are the recipes for success and are very similar in nature from when I was playing."
Sexton added that Eastern Province and the Eastern Cape itself have a very proud history in rugby and similar with the Crusaders.
"There are a lot of similarities and I think given a chance this region will flourish and be just as successful."
Asked if he can see himself staying on in PE for a while yet, Sexton said: "My contract is for two years.
"There is a plan in place, if I do get the opportunity to go past that, that things are successful.
"The exciting part for me was, when I first signed up for this opportunity, it is a blank canvas and I can really put my mark on this programme.
"Hopefully [I can] put something in place that is going to stand the test of time and also be very successful - that is what I am aiming to do."
Sexton made his debut for Canterbury in 1991, eventually making 128 appearances in his 10 years there.
He was also a member of the Crusaders Super Rugby franchise in their first six seasons in the competition, although he missed the 2000 Super 12 season through injury.
He was also the first forward to score a try in Crusaders colours, when he did so in the 1996 Super 12 game against the Blues.
By Jan de Koning