BROUBART Old Selbornian became the 12th team to qualify for the 2014 Cell C Community Cup when they beat historical East London rivals Buffalo in the first of two Border Premier League semi-finals played at the Buffalo City Stadium on Wednesday night.
Old Boys' comfortable 23-10 victory over Buffs was ultimately enough to see them re-qualify for SARU's flagship tournament for non-university clubs, after the result of the second semi went their way.
In a nailbiting main match, title favourites East London Police's Community Cup hopes were dashed after they lost 27-22 to the University of Fort Hare Blues.
Bobbies, missing a few key players on the night and unable to produce the scintillating rugby which has already netted them one domestic cup this season, nevertheless looked to have done enough to set up a final showdown with Old Selbornian when they scored three unanswered tries to lead 17-9 against the students going into the final quarter.
But Police's poor goalkicking throughout the match – they missed four penalties and three conversions and could have been out of sight at 30-9 at the break – came back to haunt them as the Blues staged a remarkable rearguard action with two late tries to run out deserved winners.
Fort Hare's status as a university team – they will once again compete in the Varsity Shield next year – means that Old Selbornian's place in the final is enough to see them qualify for the Community Cup on default as the province's top-placed open club.
The only thing now at stake in next Saturday's final at the Buffalo City Stadium is the title of overall Border champion.
Old Selbornian, who finished ninth in the inaugural Community Cup earlier this year, will join defending champions GAP Despatch in Pool A, together with the SWD champions and two wild cards.
With just under six months to go until the 2014 Community Cup kicks off on 8 March with the opening match in Despatch, the 12 confirmed qualifiers are: Welkom Rovers (Griffons), Hamiltons (WP), Despatch (EP), Shumba Ferros (Mpumalanga), College Rovers (KZN), Brakpan (Falcons), Roodepoort (Golden Lions), Sishen (Griquas), Bloemfontein Crusaders (Free State), Centurion (Blue Bulls), BB Truck Noordelikes (Blue Bulls Limpopo) and Broubart Old Selbornian (Border).
The three remaining automatic slots will be decided over the next three Saturdays.
Three intriguing rounds of the Boland Premier League remain with 2013 Community Cup wild cards Roses United of Wellington holding a slender five-point lead over perennial runners-up Wesbank – whom they face in the final match of the season in Malmesbury on 5 October.
Defending champions Villagers Worcester are still in the running in third place, four points adrift of Wesbank, but it seems increasingly likely that the title and Community Cup qualification will be decided when the top two clash.
Rustenburg Impala, who finished fourth in the 2013 Community Cup, will play Vaal Reefs in an eliminator on Saturday to decide who will represent the Leopards at the tournament.
And the SWD Premier League final will be a Mossel Bay vs Oudtshoorn affair after Barbarians and Bridgton won through to what doubles as a Community Cup eliminator at Outeniqua Park in George next Saturday.
Barbarians, as widely expected, beat Groot-Brak in the first semi-final, while Bridgton caused the shock of the season when they beat defending champions and 2013 league winners Pacaltsdorp Evergreens in the other match. It was only Evergreens' second defeat of the season, and their first at home.
And in Polokwane, BB Truck Noordelikes re-qualified for the Community Cup with a 28-9 victory over city rivals Pietersburg in the Limpopo Boet Fick final.
Once all provincial leagues are completed, SARU will choose five wild cards to complete the 20-team field from the ranks of the second-best eligible open clubs in each province, based on final log position.
Western Province's Community Cup qualifiers, Hamiltons, meanwhile ensured that they finished the Super League A in second place behind champions Maties after third-placed UCT could not grab the bonus point they required in their final game against SK Walmers, the Cape Town students falling one try short of overtaking Hammies at the final hurdle in a 25-7 victory.
This weekend's Premier League club fixtures from around SA (as supplied to SARU by its provincial unions):
Boland Premier League, Saturday (Round 17):
Villagers Worcester vs Ceres
Vredenburg vs Saldanha
Wesbank vs Black Leaves
Roses Utd vs Wellington
Robertson vs Hawston
Leopards Community Cup qualifier, Saturday:
Rustenburg Impala vs Vaal Reefs