Eastern Cape to get Super 14 franchise

Fasten your seatbelts, Super 14 rugby is coming to the East and Southern Cape. It may only be in 2010 or 2011 but the regions will be represented by a team in the Super 14.

This was confirmed by project manager Godfrey Afrika on Wednesday, the man tasked by the South African Rugby Union (Saru) and SA Rugby to oversee the procedure. He said it had proved a mammoth task but after 11 months, he was more than happy with the progress.

According to Afrika, Saru had publicly undertaken at a rugby indaba held at Coega outside Port Elizabeth in 2006, to ensure a team represents the Eastern and Southern Cape in the Super 14.

The decision was taken on the back of a court case involving the Spears and Saru after Saru pulled the plug on the Spears playing in the competition.

”Part of my brief was for Super 14 rugby to be played in the three regions including regional participation. I had to first ensure the Border, Eastern Province and South Western Districts (SWD) rugby unions were sound administratively and financially,” Afrika said.

He said this was necessary to convince both the public and Saru that the regions were capable of becoming involved in the competition.

”As things now stand, Eastern Province and SWD are both on a sound footing and already investors and sponsors are taking an interest.

”In fact, for the first time in years Eastern Province find themselves in the black,” he said.

”Within the next two months we will be engaging sponsors and investors both in and outside the area to come on board and help build the province into the formidable force it once was,” said Afrika.

He said it had been not been easy task.

”When I took the job on, many said that considering the huge political, administrative and financial problems within Eastern Province rugby there was no way I would sort things out, but after two months the union is now financially and politically stable.”

He said three investors were now showing an interest in involving themselves and the same applied to South Western Districts.

Afrika said part of his mission was to see that talented young players were retained and a high-performance centre established. He said a piece of ground had already been identified and negotiations are under way regarding financial aid.

”We are specifically looking at players in the under-18 age group and the academy will be their incubator for bigger things,” he said.

Talks have been held with several universities including Walter Sisulu, Rhodes, Fort Hare and the Nelson Mandela Metro University.

”Remember by 2010/2011, 18-year-olds will be 20 or 21 and that’s the age group we will be targeting.”

He said an exchange programme was already in place with eight young players — two from the Border province — having spent time at a rugby academy in the north of England.

”We need to get players used to conditions they will experience in New Zealand and that’s why we chose the British Isles.”

Afrika added the system would automatically turf out administrators who failed to share the vision of the three unions. – Sapa

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