SP Marais of the Southern Kings tackles by Martin Bezuidenhout of the Lions during the Promotion Play Off, second leg, rugby match between the Lions and Southern Kings at Ellis Park, Johannesburg on 3 August 2013 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

I feel desperately sorry for the Kings players. They’ve had an awful pre-season, what with salaries not being paid, uncertainty for much of the build-up about who their coach would be and now they’re taking a beating.

And, as was the case in 2013 when they replaced the Lions in Super Rugby, they have no chance of actually getting themselves into a position to be regarded good enough to warrant a place in one of the toughest competitions in the world.

Now the latest development - that their mother body, the Eastern Province Rugby Union has been provisionally liquidated - won’t help their cause. How can any player think about making the Kings - be it at Currie Cup level or in Super Rugby - a long term goal?

When will the franchise get a sponsor who’ll be in it for the long-haul? When will money and salaries not be an issue? These must be questions every man who represents the Kings must be asking himself.

And the sadness of it all is that the players - and especially those who are in the junior ranks and looking to build a rugby career - are the big losers.

There are some hugely talented men doing the rounds in Eastern Cape rugby, the schooling system is good and, at times, the Kings have shown they are ready to become a competitive force in Super Rugby. They started their campaign well enough against the Sharks in round one - the scores level at 8-all before half-time - and they also looked pretty impressive in the early stages of Saturday’s match against the Chiefs.

There was some great attacking intent and the defence was rock solid, but the better teams will always find a way to breach those defences and the Sharks and Chiefs duly did that. In the end the Kings suffered two big defeats - at home mind you, and one can only wonder what the score against them is going to be when they hit the road from this week. It could get seriously messy.

That’s unfortunately the problem with the Kings. They’ll be good and committed for the first parts of their matches, but they’ve yet to learn how to deal with playing against world-class and experienced opposition. And, sadly, there’s not all that much experience and depth in the ranks so they’ll always come up short.

The Lions are a good example of this. They showed steady progress in their first season back in the big-time in 2014, were better last year and have already started with two away wins from three - the reason being the players have learned what Super Rugby is about, they’ve gotten to know the opposition and, most importantly, themselves. So, if we’re looking at the Kings to become a Super Rugby real-deal we shouldn’t be judging them on this year’s results. It’s going to take time. - The Star