Kings confident in Kiwi investment

Alan Solomons says newly-appointed New Zealand coaches Matt Sexton and Brad Mooar will help create a ‘world-class management team’ for the Southern Kings.

With the promise of Super Rugby participation in 2013, the Kings are already establishing the necessary structures to ensure they will be competitive in their debut campaign.

One of those steps that is nearly completed is the make-up of the coaching staff. Former Christchurch-based coaches Sexton and Mooar have been roped in as head coach and skills coach respectively.

These appointments have been questioned by the public and pundits as they will take charge of a South African team. This is not the first time that the Kings have employed foreign manpower as prop Clint Newland, lock Ross Kennedy (both New Zealand) and wing Paul Perez (Samoa) have featured in previous seasons.

However, Solomons, who is now director of rugby, argued that a squad member’s ability, and not his nationality, should be the main criteria.

‘Rugby is an international sport,’ Solomons told keo.co.za. ‘If you look at the Sharks, they have John Plumtree as a head coach and Frederic Michalak as a player. They come from New Zealand and France respectively. John Mitchell, who is also from New Zealand, coached the Lions to a Currie Cup title. James Haskell, who is from England, is doing very well for the Highlanders. New Zealand coach Laurie Mains also coached the Cats when they were successful in Super Rugby.

‘I’ve coached Matt as a player [at Ulster] and have been in close contact with him during his transition into coaching. He’s done very well and is highly rated at all levels in New Zealand. He’s also a master in coaching set pieces as a former hooker. Brad has worked very closely with Matt, and together, they will help create a world-class management team.’

The Kiwi duo will travel to South Africa on 10 July as they start their respective roles on 15 July, ahead of the EP Kings’ Currie Cup First Division campaign. They will be helped by David Maidza (assistant coach) and Phil Mack (strength and conditioning coach).

‘We will also name two more specialist coaches on Monday and I will also provide input,’ added Solomons. ‘The Currie Cup will help Mike, Brad and the other coaches to settle in. They will also take charge of the Southern Kings in Super Rugby.’

In terms of player recruitment, Solomons revealed the Kings are looking to sign players before next season: ‘We are hoping to sign players with Super Rugby experience. More will be revealed later in the year. We are aiming to be competitive,’ said Solomons.

This brings up the query of what is being done for transformation, which is the main reason why the EP region has been given Super Rugby participation. Solomons stressed that this process has already begun.

‘The sad reality is that our best senior players of colour are playing for other franchises. Lwazi Mvovo is at the Sharks, the Ndungane twins are at the Bulls and Sharks respectively and Siya Kolisi is at the Stormers. If we could get all those players back, there wouldn’t be transformation issues in our senior team,’ said Solomons.

‘Our academy is up and running. Ninety-five percent of those players are from the Eastern Cape, and 55% of them are players of colour. Eight of our juniors have been rewarded contracts this year and five of them are players of colour.’

By Gareth Duncan