Hosts Rustenburg Impala will face Boland champions Villagers Worcester in the main match of the opening round of the 2012 SARU National Club Championships, which take place in the North West city next month.
The draw for the 16-team tournament was announced live on the KykNet television channel’s SuperRugby programme on Monday night.
The eight first-round matches will kick off at the Rustenburg Impala Club on Saturday 15 September, with the winners advancing to the Cup quarter-finals on Monday 17 September, and the losers competing for the Plate. The Cup and Plate semi-finals will be played on Wednesday 19 September, with both finals scheduled for Friday 21 September.
“We are committed to the revival of club rugby, especially amongst non-university clubs, which is why we decided that this tournament should shines the spotlight exclusively on so-called 'open' clubs,” said SARU’s General Manager: Development, Mervin Green.
“In years gone by, teams such as Roodepoort, Rustenburg Impala or Bloemfontein Police had universities qualifying ahead of them, but now their players have been given an opportunity to show what they can do. What is clear to me is that with so much history and tradition on show, it is going to be very difficult to predict a winner.
“Giving open clubs their own tournament is the first step in a longer term strategy to raise the profile of club rugby and help clubs manage themselves better, and in that regard we have a number of exciting projects which will be announced soon.”
Pretoria Police, who will go into this year’s Club Champs as one of the favourites after their 27-23 win over FNB Varsity Cup champions Tukkies on Saturday in the Blue Bulls' Carlton Cup final, will play Griffons champions Welkom Rovers, who are unbeaten this year, in the first round.
Whoever emerges victorious from this match will face the winner of what should be an intriguing encounter between SWD Premier League winners Blanco and Western Province’s No.1-ranked club, Durbanville-Bellville.
Blanco, under the guidance of player-coach and former Springbok fullback Bevin Fortuin, will have their work cut out against Durb-Bell, who, under the tutelage of Jan Loubser, have beaten Maties twice this year and currently hold a commanding 14-point lead at the top of the WP Super League A – widely regarded as the toughest club league in the country.
In the bottom half of the draw, Limpopo's Noordelikes face College Rovers, who recently won the KZN Moor Cup league for the seventh year in a row. Durban-based Rovers, the 2010 national club champions, are the country’s most successful club in recent years, having lost just three of their last 77 matches going back to April 2009.
Resurgent Despatch, who won the national title in 1985 and 1988, are up against giant killers White River, who surprised friend and foe alike last week by winning, within the space of four days, the Lowveld and overall Mpumalanga titles, against Malelane and Witbank Ferros respectively.
First round, Sat 15 Sept (order of matches to be decided by local organisers):
Top half of draw:
Roodepoort (Golden Lions) vs Naka Bulls (invited, Blue Bulls) – Match A
Rustenburg Impala (Leopards) vs Villagers Worcester (Boland) – Match H
Pretoria Police (Blue Bulls) vs Welkom Rovers (Griffons) – Match E
Durbanville-Bellville (WP) vs Blanco (SWD) – Match D
Bottom half of draw:
Bloemfontein Police (Free State) vs Old Selbornians (Border) – Match C
Sishen (Griquas) vs Brakpan (Valke) – Match F
White River (Mpumalanga) vs Despatch (EP) – Match G
College Rovers (KZN) vs Noordelikes (Limpopo) – Match B
Cup quarter-finals (Mon 17 Sept):
Winner A vs Winner H – Match I
Winner E vs Winner D – Match K
Winner C vs Winner F – Match L
Winner G vs Winner B – Match J
Cup semi-finals (Wed 19 Sept):
Winner I vs Winner K – Match Q
Winner L vs Winner J – Match R
Cup Final (Fri 21 Sept):
Winner Q vs Winner R