Namibia’s leading rugby team FNB Wanderers, aka the White Stallions, will compete in the newly introduced format of the South African Gold Cup.
Johannesburg-based Pirates, who will host the first-ever international match in the Gold Cup era of South African rugby, on Tuesday confirmed the fixtures for the country’s flagship tourney for non-university clubs. In a first for club rugby, the announcement was made on television, on broadcast partner SuperSport’s popular isiXhosa rugby show, Phaka.
Pirates – founded in 1888 – will make their first appearance in a national club tournament since 2009 to play host to FNB Wanderers of Windhoek after the Gold Cup (known until 2015 as the Community Cup) was expanded as from this year to include the champion open clubs of Namibia and Zimbabwe.
The Gold Cup kicks off on Saturday, September 10, with 20 clubs competing in a Rugby World Cup-style format, with eight pool matches per week for five weeks up until October 8.
The top two from each group will progress to the quarterfinals a week later. All knockout matches, including the semifinals (October 22) and grand final (October 29) will be hosted at participating clubs.
There are a number of intriguing battles to look forward to on the opening weekend, with champions Durbanville-Bellville kicking off their title defense at home to Border champions Mike Pendock Motors Old Selbornians, who won the corresponding fixture last year.
Capacity crowds are also expected elsewhere in the Western Cape, where Boland champions Onelogix United Bulk Worcester Villagers host Tiger Wheel & Tyre Welkom Rovers and Western Province’s best open club, Direct Axis False Bay, make their national tournament debut at home to KZN champions SA Home Loans Durban Collegians.
Last year’s runners-up Rustenburg Impala travel to Limpopo to face Northam Platinum Rhinos in an eagerly awaited clash of the mining towns, while Port Elizabeth will host the first of three all-police derbies in this year’s pool stages – the other ‘Bobbies’ team in Pool D being Pretoria Police – when Don’s Pawn Shop PE Police welcome their Bloemfontein counterparts to the Friendly City.
“With just four months to go, the countdown has really begun and both SA Rugby and the clubs themselves cannot wait to kick off the Gold Cup era,” said SARU CEO Jurie Roux.
“It’s a very exciting time for club rugby. More than 11 000 people attended a Boland league game in Worcester recently and we saw nearly 17 000 fans last month at Alberton Rugby Club for a provincial-club double-header.
“The profile and quality of club rugby has risen sharply in the last few years and fans are once again packing grounds around the country to watch their local community heroes in action.
“We’re confident that the Gold Cup will help unearth more hidden gems as it has done with (Cell C Sharks flyhalf) Garth April. Players must know that good performances will bring them onto the radar of provinces and franchises. There are still many issues to address, but the days of club rugby being seen as a career cul-de-sac are over,” Roux added.
Wanderers’ fixtures at home and away:
Round 1 – Sat 10 September:
Pirates v FNB Wanderers (Pirates Rugby Club, Greenside, Johannesburg)
Round 3 – Sat 24 September:
FNB Wanderers v Northam Platinum Rhinos (Wanderers Club, Windhoek)
Round 4 – Sat 1 October:
Rustenburg Impala v FNB Wanderers Windhoek (Impala Rugby Club, Rustenburg)
Round 5 – Sat 8 October:
FNB Wanderers v Pacaltsdorp Evergreens (Wanderers Club, Windhoek)