Peter de Villiers. (Gallo Images)
- Peter de Villiers again stated that Eastern Province can only reach their true potential if promising rookies are surrounded by experienced team-mates.
- The Elephants’ lack of class was apparent in a 12-71 loss to the Cheetahs, with the former Springbok coach colourfully using a Wayde van Niekerk analogy to explain his team’s plight.
- But he applauded his side’s effort in a tough game and believed valuable lessons were learnt.
Peter de Villiers once again reiterated that he’ll only be able to develop Eastern Province’s untapped talent base if he can recruit pedigreed, experienced players to help them adapt initially.
The Elephants were once again thoroughly outclassed in their final match of the preparation series, slumping to a 12-71 defeat to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
While they undeniably had periods on the front foot, they were hampered by a pack of forwards that, while showing lots of heart, lacks the ability to compete at franchise level.
“I believe it’s quite easy to sum up our campaign,” De Villiers said afterwards.
“There are many people in the world that can run the 400m, but only a guy like Wayde van Niekerk can become a world champion.
“We can extend that analogy to rugby. There a thousands of men in this country that can play rugby, but there are only a select few that can truly be considered top- or even world-class performers.
“I don’t think we have a lot of them currently though there certainly are players in our group that can definitely reach that level if they are surrounded by the right team-mates.”
Indeed, less than half of the Elephants’ playing squad has any meaningful experience at first-class level, illustrating the need for proven talent to come and assist in the re-build.
Yet, while some harsh lessons will need to be absorbed, De Villiers’ troops at least tried to create some play.
“There were a few positives. The guys were afforded the opportunity to make the mind-shift from being a club player to provincial player,” said the Elephants mentor.
“They learnt that that one metre you can give to an opponent at club level needs to be challenge at this level. If you don’t do that, you’re going to run out of space on the outside and then you’re in trouble.
“We also learnt that you don’t wait for your opportunities in life, you go out and make it work for you. The game is 80 minutes. It’s never over until the final whistle blows. You can’t fall into the trap believing that the job is done before that.”
Hawies Fourie, De Villiers’ Cheetahs counterpart, noted that Eastern Province might be in a tight sport for the moment, but also believes they need to be persevered with.
“Being handed big defeats weekly can’t be good for their confidence,” he said.
“However, it’s important than the Elephants play. Some of their counterparts haven’t played competitive rugby since 2019, so this has been a valuable opportunity for EP.
“I’m confident they’ll get better. I chatted to Peter afterwards and he definitely has plans to bolster his squad. I’d say that at least half of the match squad that played against us today are good enough for this level. They just need 7 or 8 others around them to develop.”