Blend of youth, experience in EP squad as top opponents lined up

Neale Emslie

EASTERN Province yesterday unveiled a mixture of youth and experience in their rugby squad for next year, as well as lining up three Super Rugby friendlies under the guise of the Southern Kings.

While losing several senior members – including players such as Hannes Franklin, Jaco Engels and Wayne Stephens – Kings coach Matt Sexton said he was happy with the squad they had contracted.

“We did not go for many outside players [two are Jaco Grobler and BG Uys from the Leopards] because we have players transitioning from the U21 team and the Academy to the squad,” Sexton said.

“That system is working well and is creating a legitimate pathway from the development structures to the main squad.”

Players such as Luke Watson, Stephen Sykes, Darron Nell, Tiger Mangweni and Ronnie Cooke still provide a liberal sprinkling of experience in the squad.

“There is a core of senior members mixed with some young players keen to do well and that’s a potent mix – it is a good squad to take into next year’s competitions,” he said.

There will be early challenges for the squad when the Southern Kings play Super Rugby franchises the Cheetahs (January 25), the Lions (February 1) and the Stormers (February 7) at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. The times for the games have yet to be finalised.

As the squad begin preparations for next season after a three-week break, EP administrators are hoping for good news from the SA Rugby Union meetings on December 6 when a re-vote will be taken on the Currie Cup premier division format, which could see the inclusion of EP and Griquas in the top division.

Past disappointments, though, saw EP chief executive Charl Crous introduce a note of caution.

“The AGM is on December 6, but there will be a special general meeting before that to discuss the Currie Cup format,” Crous said.

“There was an about-turn last time, but since then I believe a lot of meetings have been held across the country and that all will be in place for the sixth of December.

“But decision-making in SA rugby can be treacherous and we’ve had to shove the cork back in the champagne bottle once, so hopefully we won’t have to do it again.”

The EP squad is:

Timothy Agaba, Eben Barnard, Rynier Bernardo, Thembelani Bholi, Ofentse Boloko, Ronnie Cooke, Aidon Davis, Albe de Swardt, Charl du Plessis, Ntabeni Dukisa, Schalk Ferreira, Samora Fihlani, Shane Gates, Lizo Gqoboka, Siyanda Grey, Jaco Grobler, Andile Jho, Simon Kerrod, Michael Killian, Siyanda Mangaliso, Tiger Mangweni, Darron Nell, Lonwabo Ntleki, Brenden Olivier, Devin Oosthuizen, Sergeal Petersen, Paul Schoeman, Brian Skosana, Kuhle Sonkosi, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Pieter Stemmet, Andries Strauss, Steven Sykes, Claude Tshidibi, BG Uys, Scott van Breda, Marlou van Niekerk, Kayle van Zyl, Luke Watson, George Whitehead, Stefan Willemse

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