The Eastern Province Kings preparations for the first round of the expanded Currie Cup competition are on track, despite the current financial challenges being faced by the embattled provincial union.
Chief Operating Officer, Debbie Ellis, confirmed today that Kings Academy Manager, Robbi Kempson, has been appointed as the head coach for the Currie Cup, and that preparations were well underway to field a competitive team for the competition.
“Due to the current situation, and having lost a number of senior players, our focus has been on retaining the up and coming talent that the Kings Academy has been developing,” said Ellis.
Ellis said it was critical that these players were kept in the province, as they represented a substantial investment by the union over the past few years.
“A number of the players currently training with the team are Academy players, as well as members of last year’s U19 and U21 Currie Cup squad, who have come through the local school structures and are the future stars of the region,” she said.
Last year the EP Kings U19 team walked away as champions of the U19 Premier Division competition, winning 11 of their 12 games. This after having secured promotion in the playoffs, after having won the first division competition, in 2013.
Kempson said he was looking forward to coaching the Currie Cup side and to working with the players.
“There has been a lot of hard work put in over the past five years, since the Academy was established, to identify and develop talented players from the region and to keep them here.”
“The purpose of creating a career pathway for these players within the province, where they are given exposure through the junior competitions before going into Currie Cup and then potentially into Super Rugby and on to represent South Africa, cannot simply fall away due to the current challenges being faced,” he said.The provisional squad have been holding regular training and conditioning sessions at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
Ellis said the union was also currently engaging with the Southern Kings Super Rugby franchise to look at securing some of their non-playing players to bolster the Currie Cup squad.
The provisional squad will be announced later this month.
The EP Kings Currie Cup assistant coaches and team management will be announced next week.