National club champions Jonsson College Rovers are one drawn match away from returning to Stellenbosch in September to defend their title, after the Durban side’s 63-0 dismantling of Crusaders in the KZN Fidelity Security Premier Division last weekend.
Unbeaten Rovers scored 10 tries – three of them to fullback Jors Dannhauser – to register their 12th win on the trot and so open up a commanding 13-point lead over Durban Collegians to all but wrap up a sixth consecutive Moor Cup title.
Collegians have a game in hand but they will have to beat Rovers in their return match this Saturday (kickoff 15h30 at Reebok Park, KP3) to have any hope of overtaking the all-conquering champions. In their first-round clash, Rovers scored a last-gasp try to emerge 24-23 victors, and a draw on Saturday will confirm their ticket to the National Club Championships.
College Rovers, who reached the 2006 and 2008 Club Champs finals before beating Maties last year, have enjoyed a remarkable run over the past three seasons, during which they have lost just two matches.
Since April 2009, when they lost 22-10 to Collegians, Rovers have won 44 matches on the trot in all KZN league and cup competitions, and 34 in all competitions including the Club Champs.
Last Saturday’s victory over Crusaders was their 50th in 51 matches since the Collegians defeat 27 months ago, with their only loss in this period coming against eventual champions Hamilton in the 2009 Club Champs semi-finals in Pretoria.
“There were a lot of changes at the club around 10 years ago and under the new chairman, Graham MacKenzie, we invested in our youth,” said chairman Kevin Carolan, who took over from MacKenzie last year.
“Our Under-20 team back then featured the likes of Ryan Kankowski, Keegan Daniel, Beast Mtawarira and Craig Burden, all of whom graduated straight into the Sharks set-up without going through the first team.”
Carolan said that a succession of excellent coaches, including Sean Everitt, Ryan Strudwick and current head coach Brad MacLeod-Henderson, have helped build a lasting legacy. “The guys have created a winning culture. There’s no real formula but just a lot of hard work,” he said.
The latest addition to the coaching staff is former Springbok scrumhalf Robert du Preez, who looks after the backs. Carolan believes that despite a number of injuries and provincial call-ups, Rovers will be in good shape to defend their national title in eight weeks’ time.
“We’re down to our fourth-choice in some positions and we’ve lost guys like Shannon Rick to Griquas and Ross Cronjé to the Sharks,” he said. “But we’ve still got a number of very good players who are ready for the challenge.”
Elsewhere around the country, Tukkies’ 40-12 victory over Naka Bulle in the Blue Bulls’ Carlton League has given the students a six-point lead at the top of the table, ahead of Pretoria Harlequins and third-placed Police.
Wesbank beat Wellington 51-29 to move to the top of the Boland Premier League, five points ahead of Roses United, who have already qualified for the Club Champs having led the standings after the first round.
Winter Rose, Buffalo and Fort Hare continue their battle for Border Super League honours after all three sides registered victories in a league that looks set to go down to the wire.
UJ march on unbeaten in the Golden Lions’ Pirates Grand Challenge and Predator Competitions following their 74-26 demolition of Pirates, while Raiders moved to second place in both competitions following their 29-24 victory over Wits.
Progress remain odds-on favourites to take the SWD Premier League title after their 15th win in 17 matches, 26-19 over Bridgton, while Springs’ 59-27 away win over Nigel was the East Rand outfit’s 12th in a row in the Valke Peregrine Super League.
And in the battle between the country’s two oldest clubs, Hamilton (founded in 1875) beat Villager (1876) 41-13 to move to second place in the Western Province Super League A, six points adrift of pace-setters SK Walmers, who beat newcomers Belhar 38-11.
Third-placed Maties will resume their league campaign on Saturday after an eight-week student break, and coach Chean Roux and his men face a tough challenge to reel in the front-runners despite having a number of games in hand.