Port Elizabeth – A long journey, marked by pitfalls, negative comments and a few moments of joy, will come to an end when the Southern Kings run on to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium field on Saturday to make their Super Rugby debut against the Western Force.

After being left out in the cold for so long, rugby enthusiasts in the Eastern and Southern Cape will be eagerly anticipating a chance to feast at the main table as the Kings join the top flight of the southern hemisphere.

Kings captain Luke Watson said ahead of their season opener that the unfancied side were confident they could prove their worth.

Experience in the top flight competition, according to Watson, did not count for everything.

“Whether you have 100 games under your belt or one – it is all about wearing your heart on your sleeve,” Watson said.

“You must start somewhere and there is no doubt that our young players have the ability to step up.

“This is a very exciting time for all of us and we cannot wait to get going.”

There will be much speculation about the Kings' future over the course of the season, particularly about whether they will be able to avoid the promotion-relegation fixture with the Lions at the end of the competition.

Yet, for now, Watson and his band of Super Rugby rookies, mingled with the odd grizzled veteran, will be focused on forging a spirit which will enable them, at least, to be competitive.

The Kings have been given a relatively low-key opener against the Force, but the Australians will not see it that way.

After losing their opening match, the Perth franchise will be desperate to get a win under their belts and they know the untested Kings will be their best chance of nabbing a victory in South Africa. – Sapa