Davids: Kings won't 'fade' in 2017
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Southern Kings are determined to 'stay the distance' in their third season of Super Rugby, as they look to learn from last year's excruciating lessons.
The Kings, who improved to second from last in 2016 after finishing bottom of the standings in 2013, won just two matches last year.
They beat the bottom-placed Sunwolves (33-28) and the Jaguares (29-22) in an extraordinary match that saw the Argentineans reduced to 13 men for the entire second half - as the South Americans' discipline let them down and Tomas Lavanini (26th minute) and Ramiro Herrera (38th minute) were both red carded for foul play.
However, the rest of the season mostly consisted of promising starts and a drop in tempo after the break, resulting in predictable defeats.
According to Davids, the advantage is that - unlike last year - they have had a proper pre-season and have worked very hard on their fitness.
"We were fortunate this time that we were able to start a bit earlier," Davids said.
"Unfortunately, we did start a bit late with some of the contracting, because of certain circumstances, but we are much further ahead in comparison with where we were last year.
"We have had two wonderful months of pre-season."
He felt that extra time will ensure the players are better equipped to deal with the demands of Super Rugby.
"The game is played at a very high intensity, while the demands physically and from a running perspective are very high," the coach said.
"We all know that last year we struggled a bit in the last 20 to 30 minutes because we did not have a pre-season.
"This year we have laid the foundation.
"If we continue to build on this, then we will be able to do better, conditioning-wise this year," Davids added.
The coach is also pleased with the manner in which the players in the squad have responded.
"It has been quite interesting and challenging.
"Some of the guys have not really been used to the workload, some responded well.
"Overall, each individual progressed and got better as we went through the pre-season," he said.
The Port Elizabeth-based side returned to training this week following a two-and-a-half-week break, eager to complete their last leg of pre-season preparations ahead of the opening match against Jaguares at home at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on February 25.
He is also happy the quality of the players he managed to assemble, despite the obvious challenges - with the South African Rugby Union again bankrolling the team.
"Under the circumstances, in a short space of time, we were lucky to be able to put together a reasonable squad of talented players," the coach said.
"There are a lot of exciting youngsters coming through. I think we have a good balance, although there will always be one or two positions where you could think that we could still try and test things.
"But overall, I'm quite happy with where we are. Again, this time last year we did not have a squad and now we are in a fortunate position.
"In the best circumstances we would have liked to have had some continuity - building from the Currie Cup into Super Rugby, but unfortunately we work under different circumstances.
"However, I do think we can look forward to seeing the squad playing."
The Kings will play two warm-up matches in the build-up to the start of the Super Rugby campaign.
They take on Border Bulldogs in East London on February 4 and then face the SWD Eagles at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on February 11.
"The two friendlies will be all about ourselves," he said.
"We have worked on a few things and we are excited to see if we can play at a certain tempo.
"We are excited to see the things we have learnt from our previous experiences - how that will show on the field of play.
"We are also excited about some of the players who will have first-time exposure to Super Rugby. We also want to see how certain combinations work.
"It will also be an opportunity to see what work we need to do before our first game.
"Super Rugby is an exciting competition, it's very tough, but it is a privilege to be part of it. Each one, from player to management, is looking forward to the competition and we can't wait for that first game."