EP skipper Inny Radebe attempts to tackle the Bulls’ Marco Jansen van Vuren. (Gallo Images)
- The EP Elephants’ prospects for the rest of the preparation series looks gloomy after captain and pivot, Inny Radebe, was ruled out for the remaining fixtures.
- The 26-year-old broke his hand early on in a nasty 10-87 loss to the Bulls, but soldiered on.
- While EP coach Peter de Villiers said his troops will have to “make it work”, Bulls mentor Jake White praised his side’s ruthlessness.
The Eastern Province Elephants’ objective of laying the foundation for becoming a competitive outfit suffered a severe setback with the news that captain Inny Radebe will be sidelined for the rest of the preparation series.
The 26-year-old flyhalf, who made a heartening return to professional rugby after being in the wilderness for close to three years, broke his hand early in a nasty 87-10 loss to the Bulls at Loftus on Sunday.
Given the Elephants’ already gloomy prospects against local rugby’s leading franchises, losing one of their most accomplished players is a devastating blow.
Radebe suffered the injury as early as the third minute, but soldiered on.
“Inny fractured his hand very early,” said Peter de Villiers, the EP coach.
“He’s was actually very brave in playing on. The hand’s definitely broken, so he won’t be playing in this series again. But we’ll just have to make it work.”
While admitting the match amounted to little more than “one-way traffic”, the former Springboks mentor isn’t too worried about the resources at his disposal, arguing fairly reasonably that he’s on a journey of discovery in terms of identifying players capable of excelling at this level.
A more pressing need is finding leaders of taking charge in what will in all likelihood be a difficult campaign.
“What we saw on the field today was almost 50% down to us lacking a bit of mental strength,” said De Villiers.
“To work on that is going to be tough. We know now which of the guys can stand up for themselves. That already makes it a bit easier for us to determine who can fill in and make this team stronger.
“We need three or four nice and strong players from a mental perspective, to form a leadership group that can take things forward, especially when things don’t go well.”
Meanwhile, Jake White, the Bulls’ director of rugby, lauded the efforts of his young team, who managed to avoid the waywardness that’s usually associated with enthusiastic rookies and deliver a fairly clinical performance.
“In the final 25 minutes, 13 of our XV were Under-21s last year and even are still juniors,” he said.
“It was just (skipper) Nizaam Carr and (wing) Madosh Tambwe who were still on the field who so-called seniors. It’s an amazing statistic for me.
“I know it was a one-sided contest and that we were already way ahead, but the juniors still played together well as a team and managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over. There wasn’t any complacency and that’s unbelievably positive for me.”