Sun, 25 Oct 2020

Mzwandile Stick and Deon Davids, the respective coaches for this weekend's Springbok Showdown at Newlands, have both expressed their sadness with the collapse of professional rugby in the Eastern Cape.

That implosion came to a head with the liquidation of the Southern Kings a few weeks back, where the two national assistants have deep roots.

"Eastern Cape rugby is very close to my heart as you know," said Stick.

"It's very sad to see what's going on there, even though I don't have much detail of what's going on there. The Kings will always be a part of me."

A particularly frustrating aspect for the 35-year-old is that his rugby upbringing in Port Elizabeth provided him with significant opportunities, from developing into a fine Blitzbok exponent and skipper to also cutting his teeth as coach.

Stick notably mentored Eastern Province's Under-19 side to a momentous provincial title in 2015 and then became Kings assistant coach the following year before beginning his journey at international level.

"The Kings gave me the opportunity at a young age to become a player, they made me who I am today," he said.

"I'll always be grateful. It's very sad to see that things aren't going well with them."

Last week, Piet Heymans, CEO of the trade union Sport Employees Unite, launched a crowdfunding campaign to support staff and players.

Over R70 000 of the R260 000 target has been raised, with high-profile names such as Lionel Mapoe, Eben Etzebeth and Swys de Bruin all contributing.

Davids, who guided the franchise to a highly respectable 11th in their final Super Rugby campaign in 2017, echoed Stick's sentiments.

"I was hugely privileged to be part of the Southern Kings," he said.

"There were special memories and I'm very grateful for the opportunities there. It's never easy to be in the situation that they currently find themselves in and obviously my heart is with the players and the entire region.

"It's very sad but there might be different reasons for the state of things. I still feel with the talent pool all over South Africa as well as the Eastern Cape region that we produce, there will surely be more talented players to come out of there."

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