Club Champs fixtures revealed

The draw for the Varsity Cup free 16-team National Club Champs was announced live on SuperRugby last night.

First round (Sat 15 Sept):

Top half:
Roodepoort (Golden Lions) vs Naka Bulls (invited, Blue Bulls)         – Match A
Rustenburg Impala (Leopards) vs Villagers Worcester (Boland)      – Match H
Pretoria Police (Blue Bulls) vs Welkom Rovers (Griffons)                    – Match E
Durbanville-Bellville (WP) vs Blanco (SWD)                                               – Match D

Bottom half:
Bloemfontein Police (Free State) vs Old Selbornians (Border)       – Match C
Sishen (Griquas) vs Brakpan (Valke)                                                          – Match F
White River (Mpumalanga) vs Despatch (EP)                                        – Match G
College Rovers (KZN) vs Noordelikes (Limpopo)                                – Match B

Quarter-finals (Mon 17 Sept):
Winner A vs Winner H    – Match I
Winner E vs Winner D    – Match K
Winner C vs Winner F     – Match L
Winner G vs Winner B    – Match J

Semi-finals (Wed 19 Sept):
Winner I vs Winner K      – Match Q
Winner L vs Winner J      – Match R

Cup Final (Fri 21 Sept):
Winner Q vs Winner R

So hosts Rustenburg Impala will face Boland champions Villagers Worcester in the main match of the opening round, which take place in the North West city next month.

The eight first-round matches will kick off at the Rustenburg Impala Club on Saturday 15 September, with the winners advancing to the Cup quarter-finals, and the losers competing for the Plate.

“We are committed to the revival of club rugby, especially amongst non-university clubs, which is why we decided that this tournament should shines the spotlight exclusively on so-called ‘open’ clubs,” said SARU’s Mervin Green. “In years gone by, teams such as Roodepoort, Rustenburg Impala or Bloemfontein Police had universities qualifying ahead of them, but now their players have been given an opportunity to show what they can do.

“Giving open clubs their own tournament is the first step in a longer term strategy to raise the profile of club rugby and help clubs manage themselves better.”

Pretoria Police will go into this year’s Club Champs as one of the favourites after their 27-23 win over Varsity Cup champs Tukkies on Saturday in the Blue Bulls’ Carlton Cup final.

Blanco, under the guidance of player-coach Bevin Fortuin, will have their work cut out against WP’s Durb-Bell, who, under the tutelage of Jan Loubser, have beaten Maties twice this year and currently hold a commanding 14-point lead at the top of the WP Super League A – widely regarded as the toughest club league in the country.

Limpopo’s Noordelikes face College Rovers, who recently won the KZN Moor Cup league for the seventh year in a row. Durban-based Rovers, the 2010 national club champions, are the country’s most successful club in recent years, having lost just three of their last 77 matches going back to April 2009.

Resurgent Despatch, who won the national title in 1985 and 1988, are up against giant killers White River, who surprised friend and foe alike last week by winning, within the space of four days, the Lowveld and overall Mpumalanga titles, against Malelane and Witbank Ferros respectively.

In other Club Rugby news …

College Rovers will meet Crusaders in the final of the Castle Murray Cup knockout competition this Saturday at Riverside sports club in Durban North. This after Rovers beat Collegians 33-6 in the opening semi-final on Friday evening, and Crusaders disposed of the Thanda Zululand Rhinos 20-13. Tank Lanning will be joining Darren Scott and Simon Hill of the Ballz Radio team to do a live build up to, and commentary on, the final. Not the worst way to build a thirst for the Bok Test later that evening!

Darren Scott and AJ Venter at the presentation