EP Elephants coach Peter de Villiers has lamented the lack of experienced players in his squad after they completed their Preparation Series with a heavy loss to the Cheetahs this past Sunday.
The Elephants were handed a 71-12 defeat in Bloemfontein in another match where they were well and truly outclassed by their opponents. This result followed equally heavy defeats by Griquas, the Lions and Vodacom Bulls.
A common thread throughout these matches has been that while the Elephants have had their scoring opportunities, their ultimate achilles heel has been a pack of forwards lacking the ability to compete with the other franchises.
EP’s scrum and maul defence has been targeted by their opposition, leading to them conceding a plethora of penalties and ultimately losing players to the sin bin.
Speaking after their defeat by the Cheetahs, De Villiers reiterated that EP’s undeniably talented player base will only be able to develop if he is able to recruit experienced players to help them develop and adapt.
‘I believe it’s quite easy to sum up our campaign. There are many people in the world that can run the 400 metres, but only a guy like Wayde van Niekerk can become a world champion,’ De Villiers said.
‘We can extend that analogy to rugby. There are 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 teammates.’
De Villiers, though, also applauded his team’s effort in some difficult games and said the lessons learned will serve them well in the future.
‘There were a few positives. The guys were afforded the opportunity to make the mind-shift from being a club player to provincial player.
‘They learned that that one metre you can give to an opponent at club level needs to be challenged 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 learned 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.’
Photo: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images