Jonnson College Rovers are set to represent KwaZulu-Natal at the SARU National Club Championships for the seventh year in a row while Witbank Ferros ended the challenge of Mpumalanga champions Middelburg on a dramatic weekend of nationwide club rugby action.
With just 52 days to go until the tournament kicks off on 15 September at the Rustenburg Impala Club, Rovers are set to be the seventh team to qualify automatically, alongside Roodepoort (Golden Lions), Rustenburg Impala (Leopards), Villagers Worcester (Boland), Durbanville-Bellville (WP), Blanco (SWD) and Sishen (Griqualand West).
The eight remaining automatic qualifiers will be decided in the coming weeks, while SARU will announce next month the name of the invited club that will round out the 16-team draw.
College Rovers, the 2010 national club champions, beat Thanda Zululand Rhinos 53-3 in the penultimate round of the Fidelity Security Moor Cup to ensure that Acer Durban Collegians, who are five points adrift in second place, can now no longer catch their neighbours and arch-rivals on the log, due to Rovers' huge points difference advantage.
Durban Collegians, who last won the Moor Cup in 2005 and then went on to reach the semi-finals of the Club Champs, will travel the few hundred metres across the Kings Park precinct on Saturday to take on Rovers in the final round.
Attention has already begun to switch to the province's historic Castle Murray Cup knockout tournament, which was first played for in 1890. The FA Cup-style tournament is unique in South African club rugby in that it pits the eight Moor Cup clubs against the eight top second-division teams – all of whom enjoy home-ground advantage in the first round which takes place on Saturday 4 August.
Monday night's draw, as usual, provided a number of interesting match-ups, with College Rovers arguably having the toughest challenge after being drawn to undertake the 470km-long journey to Piet Retief – a town within the borders of Mpumalanga but whose club plays in the KZN leagues.
The race for the Mpumalanga title proper delivered a surprise when Witbank Ferros beat reigning champions Middelburg 21-18 to advance to the Club Champs decider. Ferros, who, together with Middelburg, play in the Valke Merlin cross-border league, will now play the winner of the Mpumalanga domestic final between Highveld champions Bethal and Lowveld log leaders Witrivier, scheduled for 3 August.
The Free State Club Champs race comes down to the wire on Friday night at the CUT Stadium in Bloemfontein when Police and Crusaders, who are tied on 11 logs points, face CUT's 2nd XV, Tjisas (kick-off 1915) and Varsity Shield outfit FNB CUT (kick-off 20:45), respectively in the final round of the City League.
Champions FNB Shimlas have already qualified automatically for the 11 August final, with CUT and Shimlas' 2nd XV, Irawas, facing off on 4 August in the only semi-final.
Police sides remain in Club Champs contention in at least three provinces, after Pretoria Police's 64-8 win over TUT in the penultimate round of the Blue Bulls' Carlton League took them four points clear of FNB Tuks, who have a match in hand.
And in the Border Super League, East London Police remain in contention despite losing 30-20 to the University of Fort Hare, which allowed Old Selbornians to climb to the top of the table following a 27-19 victory over Buffalo.
Up north, FNB UJ and FNB Wits remain unbeaten and top of the Predator Super League after wins over Alberton (83-0) and Springs (27-25) respectively. Brakpan beat Boksburg 66-30 in a high-scoring East Rand derby to move one step closer to Club Champs qualification.