Gloves come off for 'angry' Kings coach
PRO14 REACTION: An apoplectic Southern Kings coach Robbi Kempson suggested that the Cheetahs can expect some retribution in their return match this week.
Kempson was incensed in the scandalous behaviour of some Cheetahs players in a heartbreaking 30-31 loss in a Pro14 match in Port Elizabeth at the weekend.
Veteran Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar kicked an injury-time conversion – after fullback Rhyno Smith scored a late double – to secure the one-point win for Cheetahs in a spiteful encounter.
The two teams will face off again in the second of their catch-up fixtures – while the Pro14 is on a Six Nations hiatus – in Bloemfontein this coming Saturday.
There was plenty of niggle throughout the match and referee Stuart Berry had his hands full to keep a lid on the cauldron – with several players having previously played for the opposition.
Former Kings in the Cheetahs team include flank Junior Pokomela and lock Sintu Manjezi.
Manjezi and Kings flank Ruaan Lerm have a bit of a history – the result of a scrap at a Kings training session back in 2016.
Manjezi happily ‘intervened’ when Lerm and Pokomela seemed to ‘reacquaint’ themselves with each other this past weekend.
Kempson had no doubt the ill feelings will resurface in Bloemfontein this coming Saturday.
“The niggle came from their side completely, and specifically Sintu Manjezi,” an indignant Kempson said.
“The manner in which he behaved was disgusting,” the former Springbok prop said, adding: “The referee allowed him to get away with it from the start of the game to the end.
“All the scuffles were started by the Cheetahs.
“If that’s the way they want to play, my team can do exactly the same.
“I am very happy for some confrontation.
“They can expect us to come hard at them, there is no doubt.
“The time of us sitting back, and taking abuse from teams week-in-and-week-out, has come to an end.
“If they want to box that way, we are very happy to stand toe-to-toe.”
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Kempson was disappointed that his team let a handy lead slip and said “individual mistakes” had cost the team in the end.
“That is a game we could have, should have, but did not win.
“Individual mistakes cost the team and we have to look at those individual mistakes and make adjustments for the sake of the team. That is much more important than the individual.
“All their points came from our individual mistakes. They never created anything with regard to scoring tries, other than the rolling maul, which is boring at best.
“I think we had the upper hand on defence, physically we were harder than them and you could see that from the number of their guys who went off the field.”
He also bemoaned some of the refereeing calls, suggesting his team did not get the rub of the green.
“At times we were not allowed to play,” he said, adding: “We were getting 10-, 11- and 12-second ruck ball; they were getting two. I don’t know how that works in the same game of rugby.”
Kempson said he was proud of the side as they defended ferociously on the day.
“The most important thing was the way these guys climbed in on defence, because they are one of the best attacking teams in the competition. The way our boys defended just shows character, they are climbing in, they are playing for the jersey but we were not getting the rub of the green in certain circumstances.
“However, you can’t fault the players for that.
“That said, you should not be losing a game that you are up in, fairly comfortably,” he said of a 27-12 lead they held with just under a quarter of the game remaining.
“Losing in the last minute is heart-breaking, but – from my perspective and the team perspective – they let one get away that they should have comfortably won. They put themselves in a good position to do that, but unfortunately, a few errors crept in the latter part and that, unfortunately, gave us the result we didn’t want.”