Dog eat dog when bitter rivals take to the field
Both teams can expect to be left nursing bite marks when the Border Bulldogs are unleashed on the EP Elephants at the BCM Stadium in East London tonight.
Sparks usually fly in these East Cape derbies, and tonight’s much-anticipated showdown between these bitter rivals will be no different.
The South Section SuperSport Rugby Challenge stragglers are both pointless and in desperate need of a win if they want to qualify for the playoffs later in the season.
EP versus Border derby encounters are usually spicy affairs, and both unions will be determined to emerge with regional bragging rights.
The tenacious Bulldogs always seem to reserve their most vicious bite for games against their neighbours.
The 15 teams in the competition are divided into three regional pools of five teams (North, South and Central).
Each team will play home and away matches against the other four teams in their pool over a 10-week period.
The top two teams from each pool, along with the two third-placed teams with the best record, will progress to the playoffs, which will consist of quarterfinals, a semifinal and a final.
Last week, the Elephants enjoyed a break which enabled coach Ryan Felix to take stock after defeats against champions Western Province and the SWD Eagles in the opening rounds.
It was always going to be an uphill battle for Felix and his hastily assembled squad who did not even have a warm-up game to fine-tune ahead of their opener against WP.
Predictably, WP trampled the Elephants 59-12 at the Wolfson Stadium in Kwazakhele to leave Felix in no doubt about the tough challenges to come.
EP were far more competitive in their second outing when they put up a fighting performance before going down 34-20 to the Eagles.
“We could have won the game against the Eagles, but inexperience cost us,” Felix said.
Like EP, Border have had their off-field problems and Bulldogs coach Tiger Mangweni had no preseason to prepare his players.
“I think we have a really good opportunity here. We have had a good week of training, the guys are in a good space and they are ready for the challenge,” Mangweni said.
“EP are a good team and have battled like us so far, so they will be going all out for the win.”
Champions WP have made a flying start to the competition and are topping the South Section log after winning their opening three matches.
The tournament winners will pocket a handsome prize of R500 000 when the competition reaches its conclusion on July 15.
With most South African unions feeling the pinch in these hard economic times, the substantial cash prize will be a big incentive for all the teams. Tonight’s teams: Border Bulldogs: (Nos 1 to 22): Sonwabiso Mqalo, Siphosenkosi Nofemele, Lonwabo Ntleki, Sethu Tom, Lelethu Gcilitshane, Sinovuyo Nyoka (c), Bangi Kobese, Sokuphumla Xakalashe, Billy Dutton, Onke Dubase, Johannes Janse van Rensburg, Hendri Storm, Lwando Mabenge, Mihlali Mpafi, Blake Kyd. Replacements: Maliviwe Simanga, Siyamthanda Ngande, Athenkosi Khetani, Nkosikhona Nofuma, Aphiwe Stemele, Somila Mantyoyi, Somila Jho. EP Elephants (Nos 1 to 22): Dewald Barnard, Josh Kota, Johan van Wyk, Wynand Grassmann, Anele Lungisa, Henry Brown, Zingisa April, Siya Mdaka, Juan-Phillip Smith, Ruben de Vos, Sphu Msutwana, Nkukuleko Marwana, Siyanda Grey, Riaan Arends, Keanu Vers. Replacements: JP Jamieson, Xandre Vos, Nick Roebeck, Mncedisi Dlwengu, Quintin Haasbroek, Freddie Muller, Henrique Olivier. Referee: Ruhan Meiring Kickoff: 7pm