SuperSport Rugby Challenge to capture audiences – Round 1 Preview

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A host of new players, coaches and venues will again highlight the SuperSport Rugby Challenge in 2018, when this exciting and ground-breaking competition kicks off this weekend.

It is the second year of this rugby extravaganza, which connects communities with their rugby heroes like no other, and will see the first of five Rugby Festivals again taking the game to the doorstep of those who follow it so passionately.

DHL Western Province, who won the inaugural title in front of a packed home crowd at Florida Park in Ravensmead, Cape Town last year, will again be one of the favourites to claim the overall crown, but one thing learnt from that campaign, was that nothing can be taken for granted in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge.

The defending champions will be part of the first Rugby Festival, on Sunday at the Wolfson Stadium in Kwazakhele, outside Port Elizabeth. Two other teams in the South Section, Border Bulldogs and Boland Cavaliers, will provide plenty of thrilling action as well, with the traditional Gold Cup qualifying match between local clubs Progress and Gardens ensuring the stadium will be packed from early on.

Last year, a number of provinces from smaller cities delivered good wins over the bigger, metropolitan unions, and with matches again played over the length and breadth of South Africa and in Namibia, rugby will be back in the heartland of the country.

The Windhoek Draught Welwitschias scored a famous win over the Hino Valke in Windhoek last year and will again add international flavour to the opening round, with the same two teams battling it out in the North Section. The iCollege Pumas and Vodacom Blue Bulls will be the other two in the North Section to battle it out, in Nelspruit.

The Central Section last year proved to be hugely competitive and two of the early favourites, Tafel Lager Griquas and Cell C Sharks XV meet in Kimberley, while the Leopards will host the Down Touch Griffons in the North West town of Schweizer-Reneke.

For a couple of teams, new coaches will learn quickly that no result is a given. Six new coaches will get their first taste of rugby at this level, two of them former Springbok Test players.

Former Springbok assistant coach Ricardo Loubscher will take charge of the Cell C Sharks XV, while Daan Human will use his international experience as a player to add that extra one percent to the Toyota Free State XV.

Herkie Kruger will coach the Xerox Golden Lions XV, David Manuel will looking for glory with the Vodacom Blue Bulls and it will also be a proud start to the competition for Ryan Felix (EP Elephants) and Tiger Mangweni (Border Bulldogs), as they will coach the teams they played for in their heyday.

The iCollege Pumas also have former SA Rugby Coach of the Year, Jimmy Stonehouse, back from a stint in Japan and in a new role of Director of Rugby.

 

The opening weekend’s fixtures are:

Saturday, 21 April 2018:

Windhoek Draught Welwitschias vs Hino Valke

Venue: Hage Geingob Stadium, Windhoek

Kick-off: 15h00

Referee: Paul Mente

 

iCollege Pumas v Vodacom Blue Bulls

Venue: Nelspruit Rugby Club, Nelspruit

Kick-off: 15h00

Referee: Jaco Pretorius

 

Tafel Lager Griquas v Cell C Sharks XV

Venue: Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley

Kick-off: 15h00

Referee: Quinton Immelman

 

Leopards v Down Touch Griffons

Venue: HS Schweizer-Reneke, Schweizer-Reneke

Kick-off: 15h00

Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys

 

Sunday 22 April 2018 (Rugby Festival): 

Progress v Gardens

Venue: Wolfson Stadium, Kwazakhele, Port Elizabeth

Kick-off: 10h30

Referee: Eduan Nel

TV: SS1

 

Boland Cavaliers v Border Bulldogs

Venue: Wolfson Stadium, Kwazakhele, Port Elizabeth

Kick-off: 12h30

Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni

TV: SS1

 

EP Elephants v DHL Western Province

Venue: Wolfson Stadium, Kwazakhele, Port Elizabeth

Kick-off: 15h00

Referee: Rasta Rashivenge

TV: SS1

 

Byes: Xerox Golden Lions XV (North), SWD Eagles (South), Toyota Free State XV (Central)

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