EP Kings Rugby Academy manager Robbi Kempson has confirmed his belief in the future of rugby in the province in the wake of recent media reports regarding Saru’s withdrawal of funding.
Kempson said the academy, which is based at NMMU’s human movement sciences department in Port Elizabeth, was not in danger of closing and had an important role to play as a talent pipeline for the provincial side.
He said the academy’s logistics had, until recently, been funded by the national lottery and channelled through Saru.
“That funding has come to an end and Saru now has to take up the funding,” said Kempson, who has added his name to the star-studded line-up of NMMU Springbok alumni who are participating in next month’s Madibaz Bok Banter gala dinner.
He said the Southern Kings’ inclusion in Super Rugby for 2016 meant they would receive additional revenue for television rights, which in turn would assist in funding the academy through the franchise.
“The academy and the university have a joint venture with regards to contracting of players into the junior structures.”
Most of the academy members were NMMU students, who turned out for the institution’s Madibaz Young Guns and Varsity Cup teams, he said.
“Going forward the academy and NMMU underage groups’ structure will be a combined one, ensuring a sustainable base of NMMU and EP rugby players throughout the player conduits, be it Varsity Cup or provincial.”
The existing structures have already paid dividends with Kempson coaching the Madibaz Young Guns to a massively improved third place at this year’s Varsity Cup.
Most of those players also turn out for the EP U19 team, who have won all four of their matches thus far in the A-section of this year’s Currie Cup.
“They’ve beaten the Bulls and Western Province along the way and have really shown a determination to prove that their skill will match any size opposition teams,” said Kempson.
The former Springbok prop said it was very important to provide a conduit for the players to take part in competitions like Varsity Cup and perform against their peers to bridge the gap between underage group rugby and professional teams.
On a more social level, Kempson said he was absolutely looking forward to sharing time with some of his peers at the Bok Banter event at the Vodacom NMMU Indoor Sports Centre on September 3.
“Any gathering with rugby family will involve stories and reminiscences of days past and always ends up being a very humorous and enjoyable time for all.
“Spending time with greats like Hannes Strydom, Hennie le Roux, Garry Pagel, Garth Wright, Groot Schalk and Zola Yeye in a very social environment, and listening to their banter, will be well worth it.
“And, of course, locking horns with Garry Pagel again will make it a night to savour!”
Kempson said funds from the evening would be used towards building a dedicated rugby clubhouse at the Madibaz Stadium, which would serve as an important symbol and investment in the future of the sport at NMMU.
“It provides a sense of belonging, a home for all those that have played their part for NMMU, for those present and those to come, to build on the rich history that has gone before them.”
Bok Banter tickets are available at R350 per head or R3 500 for a 10-seater table. Book with Sheree van Rooyen on 041 504 4358 or firstname.lastname@example.org.