New era for club rugby - Roux
SARU CEO Jurie Roux believes that club rugby is on the brink of a new era with the inaugural Community Cup set for kick-off next month.
The country's best non-university clubs are hard at work preparing for the new 20-team tournament which kicks off on February 16 and culminates in a week of finals in George at Easter.
The winners will play the Varsity Cup champions for the overall national title, on a date yet to be confirmed.
College Rovers of Kwa-Zulu Natal will have the honour of hosting the opening match in Durban after winning the last-ever National Club Championships in Rustenburg last September.
Rovers will play Despatch in a heavyweight Pool A clash - just one of eight first-round matches taking place around the country that weekend.
The Community Cup is identical in format to that of the World Cup, with the 20 teams divided into four pools of five. A total of 40 pool matches will be played over the five-week period from February 16 to March 16, with each club playing four matches - two home and two away.
The top two sides from each pool will then advance to the play-offs, which will be held at Outeniqua Park in George over the Easter Weekend.
The quarter and semifinals will take place on March 28 and 30 respectively, with Shield, Bowl, Plate and Cup finals to be contested on Easter Monday, April 1.
"We're on the brink of a new era in club rugby," said Roux. "The Community Cup has been on the drawing board for a number of years and now it's about to finally become a reality.
"There is a buzz around the country; competing clubs have been training hard since before the Christmas break and all are reporting large attendances at practices, which bodes well," he said.
Roux added that a major sponsorship announcement would be made before the tournament kicked off, while SuperSport will broadcast live selected matches during the pool and play-off stages.
Apart from the Rovers-Despatch opener, there are a number of other intriguing first-round clashes taking place around the country, including Clubs Champs runners-up Pretoria Police hosting Western Province's number-one open club, Durbanville-Bellville, and Griffons champs Welkom Rovers travelling to Zwide Stadium outside Port Elizabeth to take on wild cards African Bombers.