EP KINGS rugby boss Cheeky Watson has allayed fears that there will be a mass exodus of his union’s top players after a bid to gain Currie Cup Premier Division rugby was booted into touch by SA rugby bosses this week.
With the prospect of top tier Currie Cup rugby off the agenda for the time being, there are concerns that talented young players like Sergeal Petersen, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Shane Gates and Aidon Davis might be tempted to seek greener pastures.
Watson, however, does not believe the top young guns in the Kings setup will be tempted to leave the region and he is planning top-flight rugby opposition for them to play against.
After the Kings were relegated from Super Rugby, most of the top players left to pursue their careers with rival teams like the Bulls and Sharks while other left for overseas sides.
“Our under-21 side, who are top of their respective log and dominating their opposition, are predominantly made up of players of colour, with only five white players in the squad,” Watson said.
“The Eastern Province Rugby Union has the potential to truly transform the entire South African rugby landscape, through developing our local talent, providing them with the platforms to showcase their talent and reach their full potential.
“We have the structures to develop these players to be the best professional athletes they can be, and the opportunities to provide these individuals with exposure to top-flight rugby over the next few years.”
Watson said when the Southern Kings took up their rightful place in Super Rugby again in 2016, the team would be able to showcase the talent that has come from the region.
Southern Kings head coach Matt Sexton said he was excited by the young talent coming through the ranks at Eastern Province.
“We have retained a core group of senior players like Darron Nell, Steven Sykes, Andries Strauss and Ronnie Cooke who will lead some young men into bigger competitions. That is the formula,” Sexton, a former Crusaders hooker, said. “Our U21 team is chock-a-block with young talent so we have a nice mixture of players who can help the young guys through … If you give them an opportunity you do not know how far they can go.”
The Kings U21 team, who beat the Limpopo Blue Bulls 37-33 on Saturday to stay top of the Currie Cup B Division will play Griquas in a home semifinal at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium tomorrow (kick-off 4.30pm).
In the U19 Currie Cup B Division, the EP Kings will travel to Wellington on Saturday to play their semifinal against Boland. They ended third on the log after beating the Limpopo Blue Bulls 26-17 on Saturday.