Pretoria Police and Jonsson College Rovers will face each other in an historic SARU National Club Championship final on Friday, following the announcement that this year's tournament would be replaced by the all-new Community Cup as from 2013.
Over and above the prestige of being crowned the last winners of the 'old' Club Champs, the two sides go into the match at the Rustenburg Impala Club (15:00, SuperSport 1) with the added incentive of knowing that whoever wins the title will earn the right to host the opening match of the Community Cup next year.
“Knowing that we can play the opening game of the Community Cup in front of our home fans is a massive carrot,” said veteran Police skipper Nico Luus from Sun City, where the 16 teams involved in this year's Club Champs have been based. “There's so much to play for and as players we live for these big occasions.”
The contest is an intriguing one, with both teams past masters of knockout rugby. Police are the reigning Assupol and Blue Bulls champions, having beaten FNB Varsity Cup champions Tuks in last month's Carlton Cup final played at Loftus Versfeld. This will be the Bobbies' fourth final, having won the national title twice, in 1995 and 1996.
For Rovers, coached by former Blue Bull and Springbok scrumhalf Robert du Preez, playing in a Club Champs final is nothing new. This is their fourth final in seven years, with their greatest moment coming in 2010 when they beat Maties at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch to lift the trophy.
“I have great memories of the old Easter Club Champs in Durban, so it would be great if we could kick off the new tournament there, but we have to win here first,” said Du Preez. “The team have been here before and they're very motivated. I'm very proud of them.”
Rovers are the most successful club in South African rugby in recent years, having built up an incredible winning streak that now stands at 78 victories in their past 82 competitive matches since the start of the 2009 season – a stat made all the more remarkable when one considers that it includes four Club Champs campaigns.
The only teams to have beaten Rovers over the past four years are Hamiltons (2009 Club Champs semi-finals), UJ (2011 Club Champs semi-finals), Durban Collegians (2012 KZN Moor Cup league) and Tuks (Champions' Challenge festival match played at Mr Price Kings Park in June this year).
And in a unique twist, the Plate final will also be contested by Police and Rovers teams, after Bloemfontein Police and Eagle Towing Welkom Rovers won through to an all-Free State province decider after victories over BB Truck Noordelikes and Naka Bulls respectively.
In one of those fairytale stories that makes club rugby so unique, 42-year-old Bloem Police prop Jaco Rademeyer will “go out on a high”, as he describes it, 22 years after first playing at the Club Champs as a 20-year-old in 1990.
Both finals will be televised live on SuperSport, with the Plate final kicking off at 13:00 and the Cup final at 15:00.
Day 3 results (Wed 19 Sep):
Jonsson College Rovers 72 Broubart Old Selbornians 10
Newrak Rustenburg Impala 25 Pretoria Police 35
BB Truck Noordelikes 7 Bloemfontein Police 27
Naka Bulls 24 Eagle Towing Welkom Rovers 35
Day 2 results (Mon 17 Sep):Cup quarter-finals
Broubart Old Selbornians 28 Brakpan 26
Jonsson College Rovers 41 Despatch 30
Durbanville-Bellville 25 Pretoria Police 36
Newrak Rustenburg Impala 31 Roodepoort 19
Naka Bulls 25 Villagers Worcester 23
Blanco 22 Eagle Towing Welkom Rovers 37
BB Truck Noordelikes 38 Witrivier 30
Bloemfontein Police 22 Kumba Iron Ore Sishen 17
Day 1 results (Sat 15 Sep):
Roodepoort 26 Naka Bulls 12
Jonsson College Rovers 61 BB Truck Noordelikes 0
Bloemfontein Police 33 Broubart Old Selbornians 43
Durbanville-Bellville 53 Blanco 20
Pretoria Police 43 Eagle Towing Welkom Rovers 12
Kumba Iron Ore Sishen 0 Brakpan 28
White River 10 Despatch 72
Newrak Rustenburg Impala 53 Villagers Worcester 21