Free Staters outplay EP Elephants

Chumani Booi Head coach of EPRU
Chumani Booi Head coach of EPRU
Image: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images

EP’s Elephants had the wind knocked out of their sails when they crashed to a heavy 49-12 defeat against Free State in a SuperSport Rugby Challenge clash in Mossel Bay on Sunday.

The men in red and black hoops were outscored seven tries to two and will have to go back to the drawing board before their next game against the Border Bulldogs.

A resounding 59-31 win over the SWD Eagles last week raised expectations in the EP camp, but they were brought crashing back to earth by the Free Staters.

It will require a huge effort for EP to play themselves back into contention for honours after suffering a second defeat.

Skipper Lubabalo “Giant” Mtyanda had expressed concerns about his team’s defensive frailties, and they proved well founded.

After trailing a 21-12 at the break, EP knew they would have to produce something special if they wanted to emerge with a win against a well-organised Free State side.

But EP got off to the worst possible start when scrumhalf Richman Gora was ordered to the sin bin only three minutes into the second half.

The Free Staters made the numerical advantage count immediately when powerful No 8 Jasper Wiese scored his side’s fourth try.

At this point the floodgates started to open and the men from Bloemfontein had a fifth try when centre Marlou van Niekerk charged through a tiring EP defence.

EP then took the fight to the Free Staters, but could not reach the opposition tryline.

Stapelberg hammered another nail into EP’s coffin when he scored his second try as the Free Staters roared into a 40-12 lead.

Marnus der Merwe put the icing on the cake for his side with a try at the death.

Dynamic Fijian flyer Meli Rokoau sparked EP’s opening try with a typically flamboyant offload to livewire Oliver Zono.

Zono passed to Elephants fullback Michael Botha, who dived over for the first fivepointer after seven minutes.

The Free Staters fought back and were rewarded when former Springbok wing Jamba Ulengo scored his team’s first try in the 16th minute.

They had a second try after 22 minutes when Ernst Stapelberg crashed way over the line to put his side 12-7 ahead.

Wing Michael Makase went over in the corner for the Elephants in the 26th minute.

On the stroke of halftime, Free State wing Tapiwa Mafura crossed for his team’s third try.

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