RESURGENT Upington Rugby Club will face possibly the biggest challenge in their 106-year existence on Saturday when they travel across the country to play 2013 Cell C Community Cup runners-up Jonsson College Rovers in Durban for a place in the 2015 tournament.
The match, which will take place at Growth-Point Kings Park (kick-off 19h00) directly after the Absa Currie Cup game between the Cell C Sharks and GWK Griquas, is one of two qualifying games this weekend as runners-up from the various provincial leagues play off for the five ‘wild card’ slots in SARU’s new national championship for non-university clubs.
With just over five months to go before the start of the third edition of Community Cup on 21 February 2015, a total of 13 teams have already qualified automatically from their respective provincial premier leagues, with only the champions of Boland and SWD to be confirmed.
For Upington, established in 1908, a fairytale victory on Saturday in the ‘Shark Tank’ will be the culmination of years of work to restore the club to its former glory. “To be able to come from a place like Upington and play in a big stadium like Kings Park is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players,” said long-time coach Bone Boonzaaier. “We’ve had a great season so far and we’re now 80 minutes away from our dream. What makes it more special is that our Griquas Currie Cup team will also be playing there.”
The winner of Saturday’s Central region final will become the 16th team to qualify for 2015, with the remaining four slots to be decided in the coming weeks in further play-off matches – a format identical to Rugby World Cup qualifying, right down to the repechage round that gives lucky losers a third bite at the cherry.
In the North region, all eyes will be on Profert Olen Park in Potchefstroom on Saturday where Vaal Reefs and 2013 Community Cup bronze medallists Brakpan clash in a play-off quarter-final (kick-off 12h30). The winner of this match, which will be a curtain-raiser to the Absa Currie Cup First Division match between the Leopards and Boland Cavaliers, will face Vaseline Wanderers Chiefs (Lions) at Wits University next Saturday for a place in the North final, which will take place at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on 20 September.
And in the Eastern Cape, the town of Uitenhage will get a taste of Community Cup action on 27 September when it hosts the South East region semi-final at the Central Grounds (kick-off 15h00) – an all-Bobbies affair between SAPS (PE) and East London Police (Border).
2015 Cell C Community Cup Qualifying Matches – details TBC unless otherwise stated:
SOUTH WEST REGION:
Match 1 – Boland 2 (TBC) vs WP 2 (TBC) – Winner qualifies for Community Cup as South West 1, loser to Repechage Semi-final 1. The Boland Premier League runner-up and the second-best open club in the WP Super League A will contest this one-off match.
SOUTH EAST REGION:
Match 2 – East London Police (Border 2) vs SAPS PE (EP 2) – 27 Sep, 15h00, Central Grounds, Uitenhage. Winner to Match 3. Loser eliminated.
Match 3 – Winner Match 2 vs SWD 2 – 25 Oct, venue TBC. Winner qualifies for Community Cup as South East 1, loser to Repechage Semi-final 1.
Match 6 – Upington Dorp (Griquas 2) vs Jonsson College Rovers (KZN 2) – 6 Sep, Growth-Point Kings Park, Durban, 19h00. Winner qualifies for Community Cup as Central 1, loser to Repechage Semi-final 2.
Match 7 – G5 Metals Brakpan (Valke 2) vs Vaal Reefs (Leopards 2) – 6 Sep, 12h30, Olen Park, Potchefstroom (curtain-raiser to Leopards vs Boland Absa Currie Cup First Division match). Winner to Match 8. Loser eliminated.
Match 8 – Winner Match 7 vs Vaseline Wanderers Chiefs (Golden Lions 2) – 13 Sep, Wits University, 13h00. Winner to Match 11. Loser eliminated.
Match 10 – Sasol (Mpumalanga 2) vs Oostelikes (Blue Bulls 2) – 13 Sep, Sasol Rugby Club, Secunda, 15h00. Winner to Match 11. Loser eliminated.
Match 11 – Winner Match 8 vs Winner Match 10 – 20 Sep, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 14h40 (curtain-raiser to Blue Bulls vs Sharks Absa Currie Cup match). Winner qualifies for Community Cup as North 1, loser to Repechage Semi-final 2.
Match 12 – Semi-final 1: Loser Match 1 vs Loser Match 3
Match 13 – Semi-final 2: Loser Match 6 vs Loser Match 11
Match 14 – Final: Winner Match 12 vs Winner Match 13. Winner is 20th & final team to qualify for Community Cup.
Pool A – Rustenburg Impala (Leopards, defending champion), Kempston Old Selbornians (Border), Springs (Valke), repechage winner, regional qualifier.
Pool B – Raiders (Golden Lions), Pretoria Police (Blue Bulls), Bloemfontein Crusaders (Free State), BB Truck Noordelikes (Limpopo), regional qualifier.
Pool C – Hamiltons (WP), Boland champion (TBC), Aveng Moolmans Sishen (Griquas), SWD champion (TBC), regional qualifier.
Pool D – SA Home Loans Durban Collegians (KZN), Gap Management Despatch (EP), Welkom Rovers (Griffons), Shumba Ferros (Mpumalanga), regional qualifier.