Near miss for brave Elephants
Lack of fitness, wasted chances result in hard-fought 22-17 loss to Border Bulldogs
Missed opportunities and fatigue proved costly for the EP Elephants when they slipped to a narrow 22-17 defeat against arch-rivals the Border Bulldogs, head coach Ryan Felix said.
After trailing 10-3 at the break, Border turned the tables on the Elephants when they had the wind at their backs in a hard-fought Super Sport Rugby Challenge clash.
It was a third consecutive defeat for the Elephants and left them marooned at the bottom of the log.
“We created a lot of opportunities and it was a game that we could have won,” Felix said.
“Sometimes in front of the poles and in the goal zone the boys are too eager and they hurry things when patience is needed.
“But they will get better with experience and there were a lot of positive things to take out of the game.
“We kept the ball longer and we put more phases together.
“In the forwards our set pieces were efficient and we were good at the breakdown, slowing down Border’s ball and giving ourselves quick ball.
“All these games are tough for us, but at least the boys are showing improvement in all the things that we are doing.
“Though the backline players are starting to impress, I still think we need a solid No 12.
“The biggest problem is that the guys are suffering from fatigue during matches and this is because of a lack of conditioning.
“It should be remembered that this is a team of club players who come from work and start training at 4pm.
“It is tough for them, but I take my hat off to them. They played well despite the lack of conditioning. In the first half, Border did not see much of the ball and we were all over them.
“There was no wind, and then it came up in the second half and we were playing against it.
“Border used the wind to their advantage kicking onto us, so we had to attack from deep.
“So the physicality took its toll on us because we had to use ball carriers instead of spreading the ball wide. However, the team is growing week by week,” Felix said.
It was a close Super Sport Rugby Challenge encounter between two once proud unions battling to recover from debilitating financial problems.
There had been hopes that the Elephants would have been boosted by Southern Kings PRO14 players, but that has failed to fully materialise.
With the PRO14 team now on a break, the only Kings players available for EP selection are Siya Mdaka and scrumhalfs JP Smith and Freddie Muller.
Felix now has to pick up his troops before they face the Boland Cavaliers in Montague on Saturday
Both EP and the Bulldogs, because of financial issues, have been denied a proper preseason.
So great were the problems at the Bulldogs it was feared they would not be ready to play in their first game of the tournament against the Cavaliers.
None of the EP players are fully contracted, which means they work all day and only turn up for training after work for once-a-day sessions.
The match was close throughout, with neither team more than seven points ahead at any stage.
The half-time score was 10-3 in favour of the visitors after EP flyhalf Ruben de Vos had dictated matters early on with a dropped goal from 35 metres out.
Border Bulldogs 22: Tries: Siphosenkosi Nofemele (2), Lelethu Gcilitshane. Penalty: Bangihlombe Kobese. Conversions: Kobese (2)
EP Elephants 17: Tries: Siyanda Grey, JP Smith. Drop goal: Ruben de Vos. Conversions: De Vos (2)