Two of South Africa’s strongest and best-known open clubs will kick off their respective provincial leagues in confident mood after finishing off their pre-season preparations with impressive wins ahead of the upcoming season.
The Easter break traditionally heralds the end of friendlies and the start of the league season proper in many provinces.
Hamilton, the 2009 National Club Champions, beat Cape Town arch-rivals Villager 42-10 on Saturday in the 137th edition of the annual pre-season derby between SA’s two oldest clubs.
The two clubs, who first met in 1876, will clash again on 14 April in Green Point, this time in the opening round of what is arguably the country’s most competitive league, the Western Province Super League A.
And 1500km away in the capital, Pretoria Police geared up for one of SA’s best-known club competitions, the Blue Bulls Carlton League, in fine style with a 27-17 victory over Brakpan in the Assupol Super Club Series final.
Police, who lost to Varsity Cup finalists Tuks in the 2011 Carlton final, begin their quest to represent the province at the season-ending National Club Championships with a tricky away match at Naka Bulle.
For both teams, this season takes on a different complexion, given that university teams will not take part in the Club Champs, scheduled to take place in Rustenburg from 15-21 September, and hosted by the Leopards Rugby Union.
In other results from around the country, Police’s and Hamiltons’ possible main rivals for the national title, 2010 Club Champions College Rovers, kicked off their KZN Moor Cup defence with a 66-14 win over UKZN Pietermaritzburg.
Another club likely to be in the mix come season-end is newly-crowned Eastern Cape Super 12 champions Despatch, who began their quest to qualify for Rustenburg with a nail-biting 34-33 Eastern Province Grand Challenge first-round victory at Kruisfontein. Rivals for the EP title, NMMU, showed the class they displayed in the Varsity Cup by beating Crusaders 93-17.
“The league is very different to the Super 12 and it’s literally a case of taking every match as it comes,” said Adri Geldenhuys, Despatch coach and former Springbok lock. “There are 14 teams and every one of the 13 games are tough.”
The race to see who represents Boland at the Club Champs is wide open after four rounds of the Premier League, with Villagers Worcester the only unbeaten side after a 32-30 win away to newcomers Vredenburg. Robertson’s winning streak came to an end when they lost 29-28 away to Saldanha Bay.
Bridgton made it six from six in the SWD Premier League with a 27-9 win over Uniondale. Blanco remain unbeaten following a 22-9 victory over Bonnievale but they have played one fewer match than their rivals.