IT is imperative the EP Kings under-19 and U21 teams gain promotion to the Currie Cup A Division so that the emerging talent in the Eastern Cape has the best opportunity to perform at the highest level.
So says Kings academy manager Robbi Kempson as the Kings prepare for two vital promotion matches against the Border Bulldogs in East London on Saturday.
Young Kings stars like Sergeal Petersen, Aidon Davis, Shane Gates and Siviwe Soyizwapi will be looking to make an impression in their final game of the season.
The Bulldogs finished bottom of both the Currie Cup U19 and U21 divisions and are having to defend their A Division status against the Kings in both divisions.
The U19 promotion game will kick off at 11am and the U21 clash is at 1pm at the Buffalo City Stadium.
In the U19 final last week against Boland, the Kings crossed for eight tries with Khaya Malotana (three), skipper Matthew Moore, Selvyn Davids (three) and Petersen all dotting down in their 56-40 win over the Falcons.
Kempson, who is the coach of the U21 team, said he was proud that his team had gone through the season unbeaten.
"The attitude of the players has been exemplary from the entire squad, who have all put a lot of time and effort in enabling the team to achieve what it has," the former Springbok prop forward said.
"They have always been pushing and encouraging each other, with a lot of camaraderie and support within the team structure.
"It's been a thorough team effort from the players. The coaching staff, Barend Pieterse and De Wet Barry, have been instrumental in the preparation of the lineouts and defence structures, while Nadus Nieuwoudt, our biokineticist, has ensured we have had the least serious injuries this year through the conditioning.
"Reviews and previews through Sean O'Dea, our performance analyst, have proved their worth, and Mzwandile Stick has been very impressive and influential in his first year of coaching."
Kempson said it was vital the Kings built a sustainable base for the future of rugby in the region.
"It was always our former director of rugby Alan Solomons's vision to build a solid base through the academy. We have been fortunate to do exactly that, and now it's a matter of the union, region and the community buying into this fact.
"It's been refreshing to witness how the young men have bonded through their belief in what the academy is trying to achieve to produce home-grown professional rugby players."
Kempson said attaining promotion in both divisions was vital for the future success of the Kings.
"The players themselves want to be measured against the best, and the future of the union and its ability to produce top-end rugby players and compete with the major unions is dependent on us providing this platform for the years to come."
He said EP remained a source of emerging talent with a strong traditional school heritage. "The trick is to try to retain this talent. BLG has been instrumental with its much-valued sponsorship that has enabled us to retain some of the best talent to come out of our region for the past three years.
"Without the generosity of Shane Gerber it would have been extremely difficult to retain certain top schoolboys in the province."