EP Elephants ready to charge
New Eastern Province coach Chumani Booi is excited about the challenge getting the Elephants back on their feet and ready to charge in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge and Currie Cup.
After a disastrous 2018 campaign, when the Elephants could not win a single Currie Cup match, a new mood of optimism is sweeping through the EP camp.
“It is a nice challenge and I am excited about this opportunity to work with club players and enabling then to come into the system and giving them the opportunity to be exposed as professionals,” Booi said.
“Getting the Kings PRO14 players involved in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge will be good for us and will strengthen our ability.”
Ambitious EP Rugby president Andre Rademan wants the Elephants to reach the SuperSport Series final and gain promotion to the Currie Cup Premier Division.
“I think we can definitely improve on last year’s results, specially with the bulk of the PRO14 players being involved. That will strengthen the team,” the coach said.
In another move to get Elephants back on the winning track, fiery former Springbok loose forward Thando Manana has been appointed manager of the team. The Elephants will play a warm-up match against the SWD Eagles in Plettenberg Bay on April 17, before their opening match in the Rugby Challenge.
“EP have started training in the evening at the Adcock Stadium,” Booi said. “We train after 5pm because most of the club players have jobs and we have to accommodate that.
"We have a squad of 38 players, but some are still playing Varsity Shield for the Madibaz and others were playing in the Gardens team in the Gold Cup “Hopefully we will have everyone assembled shortly. The Kings players are not there yet because they are still involved in PRO14.
“I have seen some good talent so far, and there are four or five players that I think can make it at PRO14 level.
“Some of the players lost out earlier in their careers in terms of not getting opportunities at school level. You can start to see the talent in them, and there are players who can make it at PRO14.”
There are also plans to sign some players from Border to bolster the side.
“When you start moving into the Currie Cup later in the season, we will need a bigger squad because a lot of the PRO14 players will not be playing because they will be involved with pre-season training.
“The plan going forward is that we do have some contracted players at the EP Elephants and get the guys to be full time. We will then have to work on how we integrate all the players who are contracted and those who are not.
“We are busy making sure we have good coaching structures in place.”
Booi, who is also the Kings PR14 backline coach, is preparing the team for their crunch PROI14 clash against the Dragons at the Madibaz Stadium on Sunday.
He is hoping for dry conditions so the Kings can make use of their explosive speedsters out wide against the Welshmen...