Peter de Villiers' plea for better EP players: 'Meet me halfway, I'll go and find them'

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EP stand-in skipper Courtney Winnaar is one of the side's few established stars. (Gallo Images)
EP stand-in skipper Courtney Winnaar is one of the side's few established stars. (Gallo Images)
  • EP Elephants mentor Peter de Villiers has made the difficult admission that his current squad doesn't have the ability to compete effectively in the top-flight.
  • The union, which has just recovered from another liquidation of its professional arm, lacks the resources currently to have more than a few seasoned professionals in its squad.
  • Loan players from some of the bigger unions would already help set a platform.

As disheartening as the thought is, Peter de Villiers has made it clear that his Eastern Province Elephants squad currently doesn't possess the necessary class to cope with the demands of top-flight rugby.

The men from Gqeberha have lost all three of their matches in the preparation series to date, scoring a paltry 34 points while conceding a whopping 184.

Wednesday night's 43-0 loss at the hands of Griquas at home is undoubtedly a low point to date, coming against opposition the Elephants should've been most competitive against.

"I'm not looking for excuses. There are some guys who just can't make the step up and we will have to replace them," De Villiers said after the setback against the Peacock Blues.

"If you look at the holistic picture of what has happened you can see that it's a miracle what we've  done with the calibre of players we do have."

There have been sporadic moments of on-field inspiration for the Elephants, though it's been telling that it's come from the very few seasoned professionals who are in De Villiers' group, such as Chris Hollis, CJ Velleman and Courtney Winnaar.

Hooker Sithembiso Befile has also been courageous and bustling, particularly with ball in hand.

But if De Villiers is going to develop some of his band of club stalwarts into competitive provincial players, he'll need others of proven pedigree to act as drivers and a safety net.

Some of South African rugby's bigger unions, notably the Bulls and Western Province, have previously stated they wouldn't mind loaning players to the Elephants' cause.

"I do think we do have three or four players who I hope can make the step up. CJ is one of those and Inny Radebe and Courtney," said De Villiers.

"But we need to strengthen their arm with a few new guys around them."

Out-of-favour players from other regions would undeniably help, but De Villiers also makes the reasonable argument that the Eastern Province Rugby Union will also need to pull its weight despite the tainted legacy of its professional arm, which has been liquidated twice.

"The big thing in my favour at this stage is that I do understand who I have in my squad. Now I know who will make the step up and who won't.

"I just have to be honest with myself and the union and ask them what are they prepared to bring to the party," he said.

"If we meet each other somewhere I'll go find the people. There are a hell of a lot of people outside who can make a difference.

"If I can get seven, eight guys that can make that difference then EP will be on their way."   

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