THE first practical step towards the Eastern Cape unions becoming part of the Vodacom Super 14 will be taken on Saturday when a Combined Border and Eastern Province team meet Vodacom Western Province in a friendly match in East London.
The two neighbours have come together with the backing of SA Rugby as part of a carefully mapped out plan to prepare themselves for Super Rugby involvement at the turn of the decade.
“The revival of the Eastern Cape as a major force in elite, professional rugby is of critical importance to the game in South Africa,” said Oregan Hoskins, president of the South African Rugby Union. “The area is not only rich in rugby history but in rugby playing talent from all races and they need and deserve a top-level team to which they can aspire and support.”
The Eastern Cape Combined XV will play in green and white and make a second appearance against the Xerox Lions in Port Elizabeth on Friday, June 13.
Jonathan Stones, managing director of SA Rugby, said: “There has been enough talking around this issue but thanks to the co-operation between Border and EP and with an investment from SA Rugby we have begun to deliver on what we have long promised – a Super Rugby future for the Eastern Cape.”
Stanley Raubenheimer has been appointed by SA Rugby to coach the team. SA Rugby are also footing the bill for the team’s expenses.
The players will disperse back to their home provinces for the Absa Currie Cup in the hope of putting stage two of the plan into action – by one of them winning promotion into the Premier Division.
“We have already agreed that if one of us were to achieve that, we would then contest the competition as an Eastern Cape Combined team,” said Pat de Silva, president of the Eastern Province Rugby Union. “We are also discussing the possibility of playing as a Combined team in the First Division next year if neither of us wins promotion.
“We’re sending a message as rugby leaders to our clubs, our schools, to sponsors and to our municipal leaders that this is the start of a campaign that will end with the Eastern Cape featuring in the Vodacom Super 14.”
Cliffie Pringle, president of Border, said: “Our biggest problem is that our players have nothing to play for here and leave as soon as any offer comes in. We cannot offer them University bursaries or playing contracts and we rely on our income from SA Rugby. But with an Eastern Cape team we can offer a rugby future in this region for young players and a franchise around which the community and business can rally.”
Source: SA Rugby Media ReleaseTweet