Club Champs Varsity free

Tank Lanning

Ex WP coach Alan Zondagh, perhaps the most innovative coach I ever had the privilege of playing under, has a point when suggesting that while there are many benefits to the Varsity Cup, the one area that might be suffering because of it, is club rugby …

Alan Zondagh

With the entire post school spotlight on the “Monday night football”, what happens to the players playing for the likes of Hamilton, Village, Wanderers and Rovers? Not every player can or wants to go to university …

But one man trying to change that is Duane Heath, who is now employed by SARU to promote club rugby. The ideal would be to have a national club rugby tournament, based on, and played at the same time as the Varsity Cup, with the winners of each tournament taking each other on in a massive clash.

Perhaps then, Vodacom would be persuaded to move their cash from the non event that is the Vodacom Cup, and rather spend it on this? With Vodacom Cup players back in the club and Varsity Cup system, the standard would rise, and the talent net would be spread even wider than it currently is …

But SARU have a few bigger fish to fry, one being the Kings fiasco, and Heath is struggling to get the folk at SARU to rubber stamp the idea …

So instead, we are stuck with the National Club Championships (this year from 15-21 September) which attracts little interest, but is still something all clubs strive to win. And the race is well and truly underway after the last remaining provincial premier leagues got underway over the past weekend.

This year’s national tournament has a fresh feel to it, with Stellenbosch, the venue of all but one of the last eight editions of the 37-year-old event, making way for Rustenburg in North West province.

The Rustenburg Impala club will host the tournament, which this year also sees a departure from the norm in that university clubs will not take part.

This change has been received favourably by many of the country’s top open clubs, who, in previous years, might have had their path to the Club Champs blocked by a strong Varsity Cup side playing in the same league.

Two good examples are the Blue Bulls and Western Province leagues, where this year’s Varsity Cup finalists, Tuks and Maties, have traditionally dominated proceedings, despite the presence of a number of top open clubs in both provinces.

While it’s still early days, the Western Province Super League A is shaping up to be a two-horse Club Champs race between pace-setters Durbanville-Bellville and 2009 national club champions Hamiltons.

Unbeaten Durbanville top the log after three rounds, with victories over False Bay, Victorians and the prize scalp of defending WP champions UCT.  Also unbeaten are Maties, who beat Hamiltons by two points at the Danie Craven Stadium last night.

Up north, Tuks find themselves in third place in the Blue Bulls Carlton League after two rounds, with only points difference separating Centurion and Pretoria Police at the top of the table.

Another Varsity Cup team, NMMU, may be in top spot in the Eastern Province Grand Challenge after two rounds, but a number of strong Club Champs contenders, including Despatch, Police, defending EP champions Park and PE Harlequins, are breathing down their necks.

And in the Golden Lions’ cross-border Predator League, Varsity Cup heavyweights Pukke and UJ, who begin their campaigns on 5 May, watched on last Saturday as the likes of Pirates (44-6 victors over Randfontein), Roodepoort (16-7 winners against Raiders) and Rustenburg Impala (74-12 over Alberton) flexed their muscles.

In other season-openers, Sishen beat Upington 25-24 in the Griquas Super League, while Valke heavyweights Brakpan beat Union 50-31 and Springs drew 22-all with NWU Vaal.

But while some leagues might have just kicked off, the qualification race in SWD is reaching its climax, with just a handful of log points separating Bridgton, Blanco, Crusaders and Evergreens after eight rounds of the 12-team Premier League.

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