Kiss is happy with win at Kings as Ulster survive being first to travel to lions' den
Director of rugby Les Kiss expressed his relief after Ulster escaped from Port Elizabeth with a nail-biting 43-36 win over the Southern Kings in the Guinness PRO14.
Five tries in the last 20 minutes, and three lead changes, led to a nervy finish at the Isaac Wolfson Stadium, but ultimately Robbie Diack's try, five minutes from the end, settled the tie.
It's a welcome five points for the Ulstermen after two consecutive defeats and lifts them back into second place in Conference B of the PRO14 above Irish rivals Leinster. However, when the Kings, winless in the league up until this point, opened the game with two tries in the opening seven minutes it looked like a massive shock was on the cards.
But Ulster rallied to make a second-half comeback for victory, allowing Kiss to reflect on the game in a more positive fashion.
"It was an exciting game, that's for sure," he laughed.
"We knew this was going to be a special day for them, bringing it here to Wolfson Stadium. We talked about it all throughout the week that we'd have to expect they'd be lifting themselves to another performance level and that came to bear today.
"We won the toss and thought the smartest thing would be to go into the wind knowing it'd probably be an 18 to 20 point wind - that transpired, unfortunately.
"The boys kept backing themselves and kept putting themselves in positions to back themselves and get tries because we needed to score tries, we knew that and we knew they'd have strong purple patches, which they did.
"We probably dominated most stats in the game and in the end we got the points we needed."
Despite winning, Kiss will undoubtedly have work to do to shore up his side's defence as he watched them concede five tries to a team that had yet to impress.
As well as that, there was still more concern over the fact that more individual errors led directly to tries for the Kings, something that plagued them in the defeat to La Rochelle.
"We had some errors but they had just as many," Kiss pointed out. "You go through it, every game has errors.
"We're not going to brush the errors under the carpet by any means, but we need to find a better way to get in front of those error rates and that's what we're endeavouring to do."
The decision by the Kings to switch the game from their normal home of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium to the Isaac Wolfson Stadium looked to have paid dividends by their start and, while it still wasn't a bumper crowd, they did see a few more faces.
Inspired by the chance to take their game to a new crowd in the township of Kwazakhele, it was the best performance the Kings have put in this season, and Kiss did admit he wished they hadn't been the first to play there.
"Unfortunately it was us (playing there first) and they put us under a lot of pressure today," he said. "I know when it was mooted to us we were concerned over what it would mean and what advantage it would give to the Kings, but once the decisions were made at a higher level we probably just had to flow with it.
"We had to stand tall because it is a massive advantage for the Kings to come here, and you can't blame them for choosing this ground and finding a real good energy in their game today.
"They're only going to get better," he added. "If they bring more games here it'll be tough for opposition teams."
As well as being a positive result for their league standings, getting the five points on the road is a big boost for Ulster's mentality, particularly going into a two-week break for the November internationals. Again Kiss admits they have things to address after the win, but he says he's focusing as much on the positives after scoring seven tries and finishing what has been hailed as a very successful tour on a high.
"We can go down that route of doom and gloom but we're in second place in our conference with a chance to refresh now," Kiss said.
"We meet Benetton soon, followed by the Dragons, so the ball is still in our court and that's the most important thing. But we know we need to fix a few of those errors that come to hurt us and when we do we'll be even better.
"But this is a good bonus point win to go into the break with."