SARU CEO Jurie Roux said on Wednesday that club rugby was on the brink on a new era as the one-month countdown began to kick off in the inaugural SARU Community Cup.
The country's best non-university clubs are hard at work preparing for the new 20-team tournament which kicks off on 16 February and culminates in a week of finals in George at Easter.
The winners will play the FNB Varsity Cup champions for the overall national title, on a date to be confirmed.
Jonsson College Rovers of KZN 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 GAP 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 Rugby 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 16 February to 16 March, 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 semi-finals will take place on 28 and 30 March respectively, with Shield, Bowl, Plate and Cup finals to be contested on Easter Monday, 1 April.
“We're on the brink of a new era in club rugby,” said SARU CEO Jurie 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.”
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 WP'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.
The full schedule is as follows (all kick-off times to be confirmed):
Round 1 – Sat 16 February 2013:
Pool A – Jonsson College Rovers vs GAP Despatch (Durban); Villagers Worcester vs Sishen (Worcester)
Pool B – Pretoria Police vs Durbanville-Bellville (Pretoria); African Bombers vs Welkom Rovers (Port Elizabeth)
Pool C – Rustenburg Impala vs Roodepoort (Rustenburg); BB Truck Noordelikes vs Raiders (Polokwane)
Pool D – Broubart Old Selbornian vs Brakpan (East London); Roses United vs White River (Wellington)
Round 2 – Sat 23 February 2013:
Pool A – Sishen vs Jonsson College Rovers (Kathu); SK Walmers vs Villagers Worcester (Cape Town)
Pool B – Durbanville-Bellville vs African Bombers (Cape Town); Welkom Rovers vs Bloem Police (Welkom)
Pool C – Roodepoort vs BB Truck Noordelikes (Roodepoort); Raiders vs Bloem Crusaders (Johannesburg)
Pool D – Brakpan vs Roses United (Brakpan); White River vs Evergreens (White River)
Round 3 – Sat 2 March 2013
Pool A – GAP Despatch vs Villagers Worcester (Despatch); Sishen vs SK Walmers (Kathu)
Pool B – Bloem Police vs Durbanville-Bellville (Bloemfontein); African Bombers vs Pretoria Police (Zwide)
Pool C – Rustenburg Impala vs Bloem Crusaders (Rustenburg); Roodepoort vs Raiders (Roodepoort)
Pool D – Evergreens vs Brakpan (Pacaltsdorp); Roses United vs Broubart Old Selbornian (Wellington)
Round 4 – Sat 9 March 2013
Pool A – Jonsson College Rovers vs SK Walmers (Durban); GAP Despatch vs Sishen (Despatch)
Pool B – Welkom Rovers vs Pretoria Police (Welkom); Bloem Police vs African Bombers (Bloemfontein)
Pool C – Bloem Crusaders vs Roodepoort (Heidedal); BB Truck Noordelikes vs Rustenburg Impala (Polokwane)
Pool D – Broubart Old Selbornian vs Evergreens (East London); Brakpan vs White River (Brakpan)
Round 5 – Sat 16 March 2013
Pool A – SK Walmers vs GAP Despatch (Cape Town); Villagers Worcester vs Jonsson College Rovers (Worcester)
Pool B – Pretoria Police vs Bloem Police (Pretoria); Durbanville-Bellville vs Welkom Rovers (Cape Town)
Pool C – Raiders vs Rustenburg Impala (Johannesburg); Bloem Crusaders vs BB Truck Noordelikes (Heidedal)
Pool D – White River vs Broubart Old Selbornian (White River); Evergreens vs Roses United (Pacaltsdorp).
Easter Play-offs (Outeniqua Park, George):
Thu 28 March 2013 – Cup quarter-finals:
• QF1 – Winner C vs Runner-up D
• QF2 – Winner B vs Runner-up A
• QF3 – Winner D vs Runner-up C
• QF4 – Winner A vs Runner-up B
Sat 30 March 2013 – Bowl & Cup semi-finals:
• Loser QF1 vs Loser QF2
• Loser QF3 vs Loser QF4
• Winner QF1 vs Winner QF2
• Winner QF3 vs Winner QF4
Mon 1 April 2013 – Finals:
• Shield – Loser Bowl Bowl SF1 vs Loser Bowl SF2
• Bowl – Winner Bowl SF1 vs Winner Bowl SF2
• Plate – Loser Cup SF1 vs Loser Cup SF2
• Cup – Winner Cup SF1 vs Winner Cup SF2