If there is anybody who knows what it takes to bring the goods at the top level of professional rugby, it is Isuzu Southern Kings assistant coach, Braam van Straaten.
The former Springbok flyhalf and ex-Wallabies kicking coach highlighted that the passion he has seen in the Isuzu Southern Kings troops is set to see them turn the corner in the Guinness PRO14.
“These boys are passionate about this team; they are passionate about this franchise and they are passionate about this region of the Eastern Cape. We really want to make a statement going forward,” Van Straaten said ahead of the team’s second South African derby against Toyota Cheetahs.
The Port Elizabeth-based side is on the back of a narrow 30-31 defeat to their SA rivals in the first of three derbies at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium last weekend.
This week will welcome Round 2 when Van Straaten and the team will head up north to Bloemfontein for what promises to be another thrilling encounter.
There has been much talk of the physicality and settling scores between the sides, but Van Straaten insisted it was all about improving from the previous encounter for his charges.
“For us, it is business as usual,” he said.
“We will go out there and perform to the best of our abilities. We are going there to do a job, focus on that job.
“It will be very physical, but within the rules of the game.”
Reflecting on last weekend’s clash in PE, the kicking coach reiterated what the Isuzu Southern Kings have been placing their focus on this season – improving their discipline.
“One thing that has been our Achilles heel has been getting on the wrong side of the referee and not been disciplined enough,” he said.
“I think the big focus for us this year, but we have been a little bit unlucky with a few instances not going our way, is trying to get rid of those small discipline issues.
“We are technically getting better. The focus is now on maintaining that and ensure that we don’t give away soft penalties to give opposition easy access into our half.”
One thing’s for sure, as far as Van Straaten is concerned, improvement in the young charges of the Isuzu Southern Kings is evident. And, further improvement can be expected at the Free State Stadium on Saturday and beyond.
“The team is growing. We can see that,” he said.
“If we played the Cheetahs a few months ago, we would have received a proper hiding. The team is growing, the boat has turned. We are still not yet firing on all cylinders, but those are things we are addressing to get better each week.
“We will definitely have one or two things up our sleeve come this weekend.
“From here on we will definitely see a Kings’ team that will test anybody out there. We back ourselves; we back the cattle that we put out onto the field. There has been some real, gradual improvement from week to week.”
Kickoff for the match on Saturday is 17h00.