Abdicated Kings XV
OPINION: The Southern Kings are arguably the most changed team in Super Rugby history – during both their formal stints.
It is, without doubt, the most politicised franchise in South Africa.
The team has its roots in the failed and polemical venture called the Southern Spears, back in 2005. Following plenty of boardroom, and court, drama the Southern Spears ceased to exist.
They were replaced as the Eastern Cape’s representative franchise by the Southern Kings in 2009, who played their first match against the British and Irish Lions that year.
Then more controversy followed when they replaced the Lions in a politically-charged boardroom stand-off – joining Super Rugby for the first time in 2013.
The Lions reclaimed their place by winning a two-match promotion-relegation series against the Kings at the end of the 2013 season.
The Kings’ next stint was in the 2016 and 2017 seasons – after the South African Rugby Union took over the running of the bankrupt franchise in November 2015.
They transferred to the Pro14 for the 2017-2018 season and the wholesale changes continued.
However, we will focus on their three seasons in Super Rugby to gauge the vast number of players that have come and gone from the Port-Elizabeth-based outfit.
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15 – Sarel Marais
He may not like to be called a journeyman – and has stated so publicly – but has played for the Leopards, Kings, Sharks, Bulls and Stormers. He has well over 150 first-class games to his credit and played arguably his best rugby for the Stormers – where his educated left boot was put to good use. Back-up: Siviwe Soyizwapi and Jürgen Visser.
14 – Wandile Mjekevu
The talented former SA Schools and SA Under-20 player is on his second stint in France. Having come through the Lions junior ranks, he played for the Lions and Sharks, before joining Perpignan in 2013. He was back at the Sharks in 2015 and joined the Kings for the 2016–2017 seasons. He joined up with Toulouse at the end of the 2017 season. Back-up: Malcolm Jaer and Alshaun Bock.
13 – Lukhanyo Am (captain)
Not only is he now a World Cup-winning Springbok, but also the Sharks’ captain and a fine leader at that. Born and schooled (Hoërskool De Vos Malan) in King William’s Town. Back-up: Nicolaas Hanekom and Andries Strauss.
12 – Hadleigh Parkes
During his brief stint in Port Elizabeth (2013) he did not replicate the form he displayed for Manawatu, Auckland, the Blues and Hurricanes (70-odd matches) and since his move to Scarlets (107 matches since 2014) his profile and quality of play skyrocket to the extent that he is now a fixture in the Welsh national team. Made his Test debut in 2017. Back-up: Ronnie Cooke and Waylon Murray.
11 – Makazole Mapimpi
This World Cup-winner needs no introduction. Another product of the Eastern Cape – born in Mdantsane, schooled at Jim Mvabasa in King William’s Town and played 50-odd matches for the Border Bulldogs before being called up by the Kings in 2017. The rest, as they say, is history – from the Kings to the Cheetahs, to the Sharks and made his Springbok debut in 2018. Back-up: Marcello Sampson, Siyanda Grey
10 – Demetri Catrakilis
His one Super Rugby season with the Kings, 2013, proved to be very productive – 151 points in 15 matches. Subsequintly played for the Stormers, Montpellier and Harlequins – before returning to Port Elizabeth in 2019. Back-up: Lionel Cronjé, Louis Fouché.
9 – Louis Schreuder
Played his only Test for the Springboks in the 22-24 loss to Wales at the Millennium Stadium on the 2017 year-end tour. Before his 2017 season with the Kings he played for the Stormers and Kubota Spears, while he joined the Sharks in 2018. Back-up: Ricky Schroeder and Stefan Ungerer.
8 – Jacques Engelbrecht
This was a tough call, but Engelbrecht gets our vote ahead of Springbok Luke Watson – who was struggling with injuries towards the end of his career. Back-up: Junior Pokomela and Aidon Davis.
7 – Tyler Paul
Another Eastern Cape product that went on the great things elsewhere. Schooled at School St. Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, he came through the Eastern Province (Kings) junior ranks and made his senior debut in 2014, age 19. He is now a pillar of strength for the Sharks. Just edged Japan-capped Wimpie van der Walt. Back-up: Wimpie van der Walt and Thembelani Bholi.
6 – Cornell du Preez
Born in Port Elizabeth and schooled at Hoërskool Framesby, but went to North-West University in Potchefstroom, where he played in the Varsity Cup for NWU Pukke. Represented the Leopards in the Under-19 and Under-21 provincial competitions. Returned to Port Elizabeth and played 40-odd games for Eastern Province and the Kings (2013), before his move to Edinburgh (end of 2013) and later Worcester Warriors (2018). Capped by Scotland. Back-up: Chris Cloete and Tomás Leonardi.
5 – Steven Sykes
Born in Middelburg in the Eastern Cape and schooled at Hoër Landbouskool Marlow. Started off at the Sharks (more than 170 games between 2005 and 2012), before stopping off at the Kings (2013 to 2016) and then moving on to Oyonnax in France. Back-up: Daniel Adongo and Mzwanele Zito.
4 – David Bulbring
Born in Port Elizabeth and schooled at Alexander Road High. Moved to Johannesburg in 2008 and played almost 30 games for the Lions, before he joined the Kings in 2012. Had a season with the Bulls and then rejoined the Kings, before moving to join the Scarlets at the end of 2016. Back-up: Rynier Bernardo and Thabo Mamojele.
3 – Schalk van der Merwe
One of the more underrated front row forwards, he travelled around a bit – Cheetahs, Griffons, Lions and Montpellier – before arriving in Port Elizabeth in 2017. Back-up: Grant Kemp and Ross Geldenhuys.
2 – Bandise Maku
The one-time Springbok was born in King William’s Town and schooled at Dale College. Played over 100 games for the Bulls and Lions, before joining the Kings for the 2013 season. Back-up: Edgar Marutlulle and Martin Bezuidenhout.
1 – Sithembiso Sithole
Had a handful of games for the Stormers in 2014 and 2015, before joining the Kings in 2016. Played in 10 of their matches that year, before the former Baby Bok moved to the Lions in 2017. Back-up: Kevin Buys and Jaco Engels.