The big 'mental shift' Elephants have to make
INTERVIEW: Eastern Province Elephants coach Peter de Villiers spoke to @king365ed about the ‘rude awakening’ some of his players got in the recently completed Preparation Series.
South Africa’s Preparation Series taught the Port Elizabeth-based outfit the harsh realities about life in the game’s fast lane.
All four of their matches resulted in big defeats – 10-87 to the Bulls, 24-54 against the Lions, 0-43 to Griquas and 12-71 against the Cheetahs.
That is 46 points for and 255 points against.
De Villiers, the former Springbok coach, is taking a very pragmatic approach to his coaching stint with the hapless Eastern Cape team.
“I can make a lot of excuses,” he told @rugby365com.
“However, I would much rather focus on the opportunities we created and the fact that we could partake in a sport that we are passionate about
“We had an opportunity to measure ourselves against top teams and realise what it requires to perform in a first-class environment.
“As South Africans, we have a habit of criticising each other – until they get into that environment and then realise: ‘Wow, this is another level’.
“I am glad for the players, that they can now realise that if they don’t quickly make that mental shift, they won’t make the cut.”
He added he also realised there are some player, even if they make a drastic mental shift, still won’t make the cut.
“Some players simply just don’t have the right ammunition in their arsenal to be in the big league,” he told @rugby365com.
He admitted it is going to require hard work – especially on an administrative front – to restore people’s faith in the region.
— Peter de Villiers (@CoachPdV) March 16, 2021
“There were people who damaged the image of rugby in Port Elizabeth and harmed the reputation of the region,” the coach said.
“There are issues that require urgent attention. We have to get the people within the union to have a professional approach. We have to put in place the structures that will ensure rugby is on a sound footing when we leave.”
He spoke of the desperate need to create a high-performance environment, so they can fall back on that even when there is a financial squeeze.
“The beauty about a high-performance environment is that you can start at the top and filter it down to the schools.
“It is important to put those systems in place, otherwise we won’t be able to convince business people that the money they invest in us will be spent in the right areas.
“Like many unions, the only assets EP have are the players.
“We have to start investing in the players to ensure there is a future for the game in this union.
“We know what our shortcomings are,” he said, adding that the Bulls and Sharks are willing to assist them.
“However, we can’t take their players – who are accustomed to those high-performance environments – and we don’t have half the facilities.
“We have to create that environment and also learn from the franchises who have made those mistakes and found the solutions. We shouldn’t repeat those mistakes and end up sucking hind teat.
“We also should not be too proud to go learn from the unions and franchises who have the experience to help us.”
De Villiers added that teams like the Bulls are willing to allow their excess players to play for the Elephants, if – only if – the Port Elizabeth outfit plays in the Currie Cup – South Africa’s premier domestic competition.
The coach added that having the quality of excess players that come from the Bulls and Sharks around will allow the local Eastern Cape players to grow so much faster.