Bulldogs in tight corner
Border face preparation delays again ahead of SuperSport Challenge
The Border Bulldogs are in a race against time to get their team ready for the start of the 2019 SuperSport Rugby Challenge competition that is kicking off across the country next weekend.
In circumstances eerily similar to last year, the Bulldogs have been rescued from the brink and will head into the competition seriously undercooked.
A final squad has not even been selected yet, leaving the coaching staff led by Tiger Mangweni in a bit of limbo.
“We are still waiting for confirmation from SA Rugby for us to go ahead and approach players to come and play for the Bulldogs,” explained Mangweni.
“I think there are still some documents that need to be signed, but I am not really following all of that, I am just waiting to get the all clear.
“The coaching staff and I have picked a big squad of 55 players who we have identified that can play for the Bulldogs.
“That will have to be cut down to about 34 players eventually, but we do not know how many players will be available yet.
“We can only approach the club sides to see if their players are available once we are given the go ahead, and from there we will see what to do.”
The Bulldogs will have the luxury of playing their first match at home, after it was confirmed that they would host the first SuperSport Rugby Challenge Festival of the year at the Sisa Dukashe.
However the deck is once again stacked against them as a team still needs to be identified, so at best they will be able to hold only a few sessions together next week ahead of the opening match.
However the team should retain a bit of momentum, with a large portion of the players expected to come from the Bulldog-laden Swallows Gold Cup team who made the semifinals of the competition and players from the WSU All Blacks and UFH Blues Varsity Shield teams.
All three of those sides have played rugby over the last couple of months, so would most likely be the fittest and most conditioned players available to the Bulldogs.
“Ideally we would have liked to have trials, but time is fast running out for that, we are hoping that we can have a trial session early next week but we will see when we are allowed to approach the players and decide the best course of action from there,” said Mangweni.
“Because we have not worked with any players yet and by the time the first match comes around we might only have had one or two sessions we might have to go with a few combinations and players that have been playing recently.
“So Walter Sisulu and Fort Hare have been playing Varsity Cup and Swallows were in the Gold Cup, so those might be the players that we will look at for the first game and then take it from there.
“But it is difficult to make a decision now as I still have to sit down with the coaching staff and plan the way forward, so things may change over the coming days.”
Having survived liquidation last year, the board being dissolved in December and falling into administration and then facing almost an entire year of no professional rugby in the region, thanks to government bailouts, any players who are brought into the fold will need to take the positives out of the situation.
“It is a very tough situation, we faced a similar one last year, but the good thing is that rugby will be played which was not looking possible just a month ago, so these players will have to take heart from the fact that Border is able to field a side and go out and give their best on the day,” admitted Mangweni.
The SuperSport Rugby Challenge Festival will be battled out at the Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane next week Sunday, with two provincial matches and a club match set to be played...