Spears braced for brutal baptism

The Southern Spears enter rugby’s “real world” on Saturday, and nervous rather than excited anticipation permeates the rank’s of the country’s fledgling franchise.

“The best thing for us is to go into the real world and see what’s happening there. It’s always nice to get an indication of where we stand, so I’m pleased we’re finally getting underway. I will admit to being apprehensive,” said coach Peter de Villiers to keo.co.za of his side’s fixture against the Cheetahs in PE on Saturday.

The Spears’ early existence has been notable for the diversity of views regarding their progress. Keo.co.za has been informed by many close to the franchise that the Spears are “already struggling” and “way behind schedule”, although this is fiercely denied by administrators attempting to run the side.

De Villiers has never been one to tow the party line, and offers a lukewarm response to enquiries over his general happiness on the progress of the team.

“Things are not too bad. We’re a very new side, a young inexperienced side, but we’re very passionate and working hard. We played against the Elephants the other day and beat them 38-5, and that was an eye opener for me as it showed me just how much and where we need to improve.”

“It will take us six months to get everything into place. A lot of things still need attention, Tony McKeever is still very new at running a union and he needs some time to settle. To be honest, until we find a big sponsor, the structures both on and off the field will be inadequate.”

The lack of cash means De Villiers has had no option but to invest heavily in young and promising players, with tighthead prop Eugene Maqwalena the only acquisition over the Christmas period.

De Villiers believes the biggest obstacle remains the attitude of the three individual feeder unions, the Elephants, the Bulldogs and the Eagles, who he believes are still preoccupied with self-preservation.

“Our biggest test will be to educate the three unions about what a Super 14 side is about. I don’t think they actually understand what is needed to make this team competitive, and how to support us. All three unions are fielding teams in the Vodacom Cup in an attempt to qualify for the Currie Cup, even though the Spears are guaranteed a spot. We are on the back-burner at the moment and that is not ideal.”

SPEARS SIDE TO PLAY THE CHEETAHS

15. Baldwin McBean
14. Reinhard Gerber
13. Spencer Wakeling
12. Basil de Doncker
11. Luvo Sogidashe
10. Isma-eel Dollie
9. Warren Malgas
8. Ashley Johnson (c)
7. Devon Raubenheimer
6. Maurice Reid
5. Hein Potgieter
4. Liam Combrinch
3. Eugene Maqwalena
2. Gavin Williamson
1. Petros Mathula

Subs

16. Wayne Bennett
17. Brood van der Westhuizen
18. Black Mtimka
19. Pieter Loots
20. Kaunda Ntunja
21. Tewis de Bruin
22. Vusumzi Mbulali
23. Daniel Philander