THE Eastern Province under-21 rugby team have a chance to win silverware when they clash with the SWD Eagles in the Absa B Section u-21 final at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday (kick-off at noon).
The match will be played as the main curtain-raiser to the EP Kings versus Pumas Absa Currie Cup First Division final.
On Friday the EP u-21 side prepared for their final in superb style when they trounced Griquas 67-5 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
If EP win again on Saturday they will qualify for a playoff match for a berth in the Currie Cup A Division at the end of the season.
The EP u-19 team are also in the B Division final and will take on Border in the first match on Saturday, starting at 10am.
The Kings qualified for the final by beating Griquas 27-16 on Friday. Border made it into the final thanks to a 34-12 win over the Falcons in East London on Saturday.
“The most enlightening thing about the tries scored against Griquas is the manner in which the ‘team’ ethic came through, as the players always put the ball into space and opted to play it to someone in a better position to score,” EP Academy manager Robi Kempson said.
“The maturity these young men have started to show over the past few weeks has been very refreshing, and is down to the very strong leadership in the group, and the work ethic of the entire squad.”
Kempson said there had been a major emphasis on a squad system for this campaign as they had lost players periodically to injuries, and to the senior side over the course of the competition.
“A strength in depth has made a difference and the young men have grasped the ‘bigger’ picture of the squad and ‘team’ concept, as it can be a difficult one to deal with when one is not involved on match days. We have used 35 players so far in seven games.
“All the players used in the competition except for five are from the Kings Academy and 12 of the 22 from the game against Griquas are still under-21 next year.
“There is no doubt about the impact that the players who come down from the senior team have on the team – in particular, vice-captain Shane Gates, who has been a standout performer in every game this season.
“His energy on both defence and attack and a very level head on young shoulders [just turned 20] have made an impressionable difference on the backline.
“The same can be said for when Scott van Breda [Kingswood] comes down. Rynier Bernado has also had a massive impact on the team whenever he plays. He is a natural leader and captained the side for the first time against Griquas, as the captain for the Currie Cup [Renier Erasmus] has an injury.
“Erasmus has led the side in the previous games exceptionally well, and a tribute to a lead-from-the-front attitude is displayed in the fact that he always has the highest work rate when it comes to the game stats.
“Kayle van Zyl and Siviwe Soyiswapi have been two of the outstanding backs who have come through this season … Lonwabo Ntleki, Brian Skosana and Yamkela Ngam are another three of our backline players who have been standout performers.”
The EP scorers against Griquas:
Tries: Brendon Olivier, Dane van der Westhuyzen, Dwayne Kelly, Louis Fourie, Paul Schoeman, Sinethemba Ndita, Siviwe Soyizwapi (2), Wayven Smith, Yamkela Ngam.
Conversions: Dwayne Kelly (5), Kayle van Zyl (2). Penalty: Kelly.