All club rugby roads lead to the Phillip Herbstein Field in Constantia, Cape Town on Saturday for what promises to be the “biggest ever” Gold Cup Final to crown South Africa’s champion non-university club.
DirectAxis False Bay, the 2016 finalists, will host KZN champions Go Nutz College Rovers in an intriguing repeat of their Pool D match of just three weeks ago in Durban, won 15-14 by the Bay thanks to a penalty after the final hooter.
In a superb advertisement for the quality and vibrancy of club rugby, False Bay reached their second consecutive final with a memorable 34-21 home win over defending champions Newrak Rustenburg Impala, a result that laid to rest the ghosts of 2016 when the Capetonians lost 48-24 in Rustenburg.
And in the other semi-final, Rovers reached their first national final in five years when they held on to beat Blue Bulls champions Quins-Bobbies Rugby (QBR) 31-28 in Pretoria in a nailbiting match. The Durbanites leds 31-0 at half-time, only to watch QBR stage a dramatic comeback that very nearly saw them snatch the most unlikely of victories.
“False Bay was established in 1929 and we’ve seen many memorable matches down the years, but Saturday is undoubtedly the biggest day in our history,” said False Bay chairman, Kevin Lennett.
“The Gold Cup final has captured the imagination of the local community and we are expecting the biggest crowd we’ve ever had at the ground.
“If you’re looking to watch club rugby of the highest quality in a family-friendly environment, and then the Currie Cup Final afterwards, False Bay is the place to be. There will be plenty of food and drink on sale and we encourage everyone to get there early to get a seat.”
On the field, False Bay and College Rovers represent the new breed of non-university clubs. Both sides are packed with quality players who play attractive rugby under the guidance of two of the best young coaches in South African rugby, Johnathan van der Walt (Bay) and Derek Heiberg (Rovers).
“The days of club rugby being seen as the poor relation of SA rugby are long gone,” said Van der Walt, 35.
“Just look at the four wings who are playing on Saturday and you get an idea that this isn’t Mickey Mouse rugby. For us, Marcello Sampson has played for Western Province this year and Danie Roux has played national sevens rugby. For Rovers, Tythan Adams has played Currie Cup for the Sharks this year and is on the brink of cracking the Springbok Sevens team. Mark Richards is a former Blitzbok.”
Heiberg, 42, concurred: “The Gold Cup final will showcase the very best of club rugby,” said the man who is looking to steer Rovers to an unprecedented triple this year, with the Durban side already having won the KZN league and cup double by lifting the Moor Cup and Murray Cup.
“The players are highly conditioned, top-quality athletes who play a brand of rugby that has enthralled thousands of supporters in this year’s tournament.
“Many of the players in Saturday’s final have played provincial rugby and there are many more who could or should be at that level. It’s going to be a game to remember.”
The Final will be an emotional occasion and fitting send-off for Rovers skipper and flyhalf, Chris Jordaan, the former Sharks and Pumas player. Jordaan, 31, will be playing his final match for Rovers in a 12-year career that has seen him play in an unprecedented 11 national tournaments stretching back to 2006.
THE GOLD CUP FINAL:
Date: Saturday 28 October
Venue: Phillip Herbstein Field, Constantia Sports Complex, Cape Town
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
ARs: Paul Mente & Aimee Barrett-Theron
Entrance: R20 adults, R20 cars, Scholars Free
Curtain-raiser: False Bay Old Crocs v Helderberg Golden Eagles 13h00
DirectAxis False Bay (15-1): Adnaan Osman, Danie Roux, Richard Lawson, Riaan O’Neill, Marcello Sampson, Meryck Ward, Mohammad Damon, Ryan Olivier, Michael-Dean Botha, Tapiwa Tsomondo, Brent Stevens, Graham Knoop (c), Ashley Wells, Roan Dalzell, Wesley Futter. Replacements (16-22): Andre van Vuuren, Simon Raw, Brandon Wood, Jody Reyneke, Dylon Frylinck, Carl Kohne, Mustaqeem Jappie.
Go Nutz College Rovers (15-1): Gavin Scott, Mark Richards, Richard Bamber, Brandon Bailing, Tythan Adams, Chris Jordaan (c), Grant Williams, Kelvin Adam, Graham Geldenhuys, Matthew-Lee Jones, Chris van Leeuwen, Matt Tweddle, Thierry Kaute, Byron van der Nest, Jarrett Crouch. Replacements (16-22): Jandre Jacobs, Luciando Santos, Molotsi Bouwer, Liam O’Connell, Warren Randall, Mondli Nkosi, Grant Rattray.