The race for qualification for the 2012 SARU National Club Championships is set to intensify in the coming weeks as teams in a number of provinces look to grab one of the 11 remaining places available at the season-ending tournament.
With just 65 days to go until the Champs kick off in Rustenburg on 15 September, five teams have already booked their places: hosts Rustenburg Impala (Leopards), Villagers Worcester (Boland), Durbanville-Bellville (WP), Blanco (SWD) and Sishen (Griqualand West).
This year's tournament will not feature any tertiary or university teams, which means that the top-ranked non-university clubs in each of the 14 provinces will qualify automatically. SARU will also once again invite the champion Limpopo side as well as one additional club to round out the 16-team draw.
The identity of the 16th club will be announced closer to the tournament, once SARU's Games & Policies Committee have considered nominations from all provinces.
The first round of eight matches will be played on Saturday 15 September, with Cup and Plate quarter-finals scheduled for Monday 17 September, and semi-finals on Wednesday 19 September. The Cup and Plate finals will take place on Friday 21 September.
The Blue Bulls Carlton League resumes this week after a break and its qualifier is set to be decided in the next fortnight, with log-topping Pretoria Police the favourites ahead of third-placed Centurion, whom they host on Saturday at the Police grounds in Pretoria (kick-off 15h00).
With three rounds remaining, the Bobbies have a 12-point lead over Centurion, who will be buoyed following their 19-13 victory over FNB Varsity Cup and defending Carlton Cup champions Tuks, who are lying second on the table.
Elsewhere in Gauteng, the Predator Super League also resumes after a three-week break, with the Lions' favourite for Club Champs qualification, Roodepoort, at home to Valke front-runners Brakpan and East Rand arch-rivals Springs hosting Rustenburg Impala in the pick of the weekend's action.
The KZN Moor Cup also gets going again this weekend, with 2010 national club champions and Moor Cup holders for the past six years, Jonsson College Rovers, holding a slender five-point lead over neighbours Durban Collegians with three rounds remaining.
With the Club Champs qualification slot not yet decided, both sides will not want to drop points in their respective away matches on Friday night, with Collegians travelling to third-placed Varsity College and Rovers making the trip to Pietermaritzburg to face mid-table Collegians.
And down south, the Eastern Province Grand Challenge is reaching its climax with Despatch, SAPS, PE Harlequins, Gardens, Progress, African Bombers and Gardens, together with NMMU, ensuring one of the most hard-fought league campaigns in many years.
Despatch finished off their campaign with a 108-0 victory over Crusaders – their 11th in 13 matches with one draw – while the only team to beat them this year, Bombers, also recorded a century in their final league match, 103-24 over Suburban.
Elsewhere around the country, the identities of the Mpumalanga, Griffons, Free State and Border Club Champs qualifiers will also become clear in the coming weeks as the various domestic leagues and finals are wrapped up.
• For all the latest nationwide fixtures, results & logs from leagues in all 14 provinces follow @saclubrugby on Twitter. SMS your 1st team results to SARU's national club rugby SMS results line 44678 (standard rates).