Hard work lies ahead for the Southern Kings and Cheetahs in the Guinness Pro14 after the teams were reintroduced the realities of touring the northern hemisphere in winter this past weekend, with both sides suffering disappointing defeats.
The Cheetahs went down 36-12 against defending champions, Leinster, at a drenched RDS Arena in Dublin on Saturday, while the Southern Kings suffered a 68-3 defeat against Munster at Irish Independent Park in Cork on Friday.
Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie took some encouragement from the way his charges finished their encounter against Leinster, scoring twice and denying the hosts from adding to their score, but he admitted that their performance earlier in the match was not good enough.
“We came back well in the last 30 minutes and performed really well in that period, and we controlled a certain aspect of our game (the scrums) and put a lot of pressure on them. But the first half just wasn’t good enough in the conditions,” said Fourie.
“We didn’t start well.
“In the first half we were playing with the wind but we couldn’t use it because we had very little ball, and Leinster played most of the game in our 22.
“We resisted the pressure initially but in the last 20 minutes of the first half they scored 22 points and that killed us.”
Fourie added: “Ball possession was a massive problem, as we struggled to keep the ball in the wet weather, and Leinster played really well in the conditions.
“They are probably the best team in Europe at the moment, and it showed.
“We have a lot of work to do before our next game against Ulster if we are going to come right in these conditions.”
The Southern Kings also have their work cut out, with coach Robbie Kempson openly expressing his frustration after their match against Munster.
“We started building a few phases at one stage, but we’d cough up the ball at crucial moments and get turned over and Munster would punish us,” said Kempson.
“Unfortunately it happens week in and week out. Maybe in certain areas we either have to adapt our personnel or the way we want to play the game. We want to be more expansive but at this juncture we are not getting that right.”
Kempson again spoke of discipline costing his team, saying: “It was very frustrating to see the discipline again being a problem, as we were a yellow card down within the first 10 minutes.
“It is small things we are not doing well. We are not managing the things we can control, and when you cough up the ball to a very strong team like Munster it is fatal.
“But credit to Munster. They have one of the best attacking flyhalves, they were outstanding with their pace on the ball and very strong with ball in hand.”