Old Selbornians will represent Border at the National Club Championships for the first time in a decade after a nailbiting victory over closest rivals East London Police in the final round of the province's Super League last weekend.
With just 38 days to go until the tournament kicks off on 15 September, 14 of the 16 teams are now decided, with Old Selbornians joining Pretoria Police (Blue Bulls) and Noordelikes (Limpopo) among those qualifiers who have been confirmed in recent days.
They join Despatch (EP), Brakpan (Valke), Bloemfontein Police (Free State), Roodepoort (Golden Lions), Rustenburg Impala (Leopards), Villagers Worcester (Boland), Durbanville-Bellville (WP), Blanco (SWD), Sishen (Griqualand West) and College Rovers (KZN) in the draw.
It was furthermore decided by SARU's Executive Committee last week to invite Naka Bulls to the tournament as the sixteenth team. This follows a process whereby SARU's Games & Policies Committee invited all provinces to submit for consideration the names of the second-best non-university club competing in their top leagues.
Naka Bulls fulfilled this requirement by finishing the Blue Bulls' Carlton League round-robin stages in third place, behind FNB Varsity Cup champions Tuks – who are ineligible for the Club Championships – and Pretoria Police.
This weekend's Carlton Cup semi-finals ironically see Pretoria Police up against Naka Bulls in one of the matches, with Tuks playing Centurion in the other semi. All matches will take place at the Police College fields in Pretoria.
The Mpumalanga final will be between Lowveld winners White River and Witbank Ferros, with a date and time for the Club Champs decider to be confirmed, while the Griffons champion will be known in the coming week.
For Old Selbornians, victory over Police means they will play at the Club Championships for the first time since 2002. “The guys are ecstatic,” said Dave Cooper, who handed over the reins as president this year after a six-year spell at the helm. “We were quietly confident ahead of the match but I think what was crucial was that we didn't change a thing about the build-up.
“Old Selbornians have a rich history and tradition. We celebrated our 75th anniversary in 2008 and although we had a few lean years this is unbelievable,” he added. “But the guys cannot relax too much now as we still have the Border Cup semi-finals to think about before we look to Rustenburg.”
And in action from around the country, Durbanville-Bellville cemented their place at the top of the Western Province Super League A standings with a 23-21 victory over Maties that gives the side from Cape Town's northern suburbs a commanding 14-point lead over their Stellenbosch rivals.
And in a good afternoon for WP's so-called 'open' clubs, Hamiltons are tied with Maties on 47 points following their 18-17 away win over UCT.
Up north, UJ hold an almost unassailable nine-point advantage of Wits with only two rounds remaining in the Predator Super League contested by the top Golden Lions, Valke and Leopards clubs.
And on the East Coast, the draw for the quarter-finals of the KZN Castle Murray Cup sees Varsity College, who ended third in the Moor Cup league, host College Rovers, who last month lifted the trophy for the seventh year in a row and who reached the last eight thanks to a 57-19 win over Piet Retief in an historic first-ever meeting between the two clubs last weekend.
In the other matches, Premier Division wooden-spoonists Zululand Rhinos host First Division North club Vryheid, while newly-crowned First Division champions and giant-killers Amanzimtoti – who look likely to play Rhinos in a promotion-relegation match to round off the season – travel to Durban North to face Crusaders following the South Coast side's 41-15 drubbing of Premier side Pietermaritzburg Collegians.
In the last of the quarter-finals, Harlequins host Durban Collegians, who finished second in the Moor Cup.