It's all systems go for the 2014 edition of the Cell C Community Cup, with the country's top non-university clubs departing on Friday for eight first-round matches taking place across the length and breadth of the country this weekend.
All eyes will be on the Eastern Cape town of Despatch, where defending champions Gap Management Despatch host Port Elizabeth arch-rivals Spring Rose in the televised tournament opener (kick-off 14h30, SS8).
The first round of pool action in SARU's official national club rugby championship for non-university clubs sees action in Roodepoort, Polokwane, Emalahleni and Rustenburg in the north to Durban in the east and down south to Mossel Bay and Wellington.
A tight tussle is expected between these two old foes, who finished second and third respectively behind Varsity Cup side NMMU Madibaz in the 2013 EP Grand Challenge – arguably the second strongest premier league in the country after the Western Province Super League. Spring Rose, coached by Lulama Mpalala, were the only team to beat the Madibaz last season, while the New Brighton side lost 25-21 to Despatch at the venue of next month's Community Cup opener.
Despatch, who will once again be coached by former Springbok lock Adri Geldenhuys, lost narrowly to Madibaz and drew with the EP Kings' Vodacom Cup side in warm-up matches.
Despatch vs Spring Rose apart, the opening weekend of Community Cup 2014 is packed with intriguing battles. In Pool C, title contenders G5 Metals Brakpan, the Valke champions, travel from the East Rand to the West Coast to play Boland champions Roses United at Pelican Park in Wellington. And another capacity crowd is expected at the D'Almeida Stadium in Mossel Bay where Barbarians will host Bridgton in an all-SWD affair.
Adding spice to this Southern Cape derby is the fact that Barbarians will have a point to prove, having lost 25-24 to Bridgton in the 2013 SWD Premier League final at the neutral venue of George, thanks to a try after the hooter. Barbarians will be hoping that their formidable home-ground advantage will help them to reverse that heartbreaking loss.
Up north, another of the title favourites, Rustenburg Impala, host fellow miners from Kathu, Aveng Moolmans Sishen in Rustenburg, while Roodepoort entertain Bloemfontein Crusaders.