The SARU Community Cup took on a distinctly international flavour on Wednesday night when Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, coach Heyneke Meyer and SARU President Oregan Hoskins made the draw for the newly-launched national club rugby tournament at the team's hotel in London, where they are preparing for their final Test of the year against England.
The Community Cup, which replaces the old National Club Championships, will see 20 of the country's best non-university clubs battle it out across the country over a six-week period, in a World Cup-style tournament that includes five rounds of pool matches at club venues and play-offs to be held annually in George over the Easter long weekend.
The inaugural Community Cup kicks off on Saturday 16 February 2013 with eight first-round match-ups and ends with the final on Easter Monday, 1 April at Outeniqua Park.
“It's fantastic to see club rugby coming back onto the radar and I feel privileged to have been able to draw the names of the first teams to ever play in the Community Cup,” said Bok skipper De Villiers, who played club matches for Maties against Tygerberg and Villager in the Western Province Super League as recently as 2006. “Club rugby got left behind by professionalism in the sense that it was put on the back burner for a long time, but now competitions such as the Varsity Cup and Community Cup will hopefully ensure that club players have a proper stage on which to show just how much talent we have in this country which we've only just begun to tap into.”
SARU's Games & Policies Committee decided ahead of the draw that the four semi-finalists from the final National Club Championships, held in Rustenburg in September, would be seeded 1st in their respective pools, with the teams they beat in the quarter-finals seeded second.
It was therefore left to De Villiers, Meyer and Hoskins on Wednesday to draw the remaining seven automatic qualifiers and five invited wild card teams to complete the pools.
“It's true that professionalism has widened the gap between club and provincial rugby but now we have a vital bridge between the two for both student and so-called 'open' clubs,” said Hoskins. “On the one hand, the Community Cup is an elite flagship competition for the best of the best, and it will provide the cream of our club players with a competitive platform and the aspiration factor that has been missing for so long.
“But just as important is that we ensure the Community Cup is also exactly what it says: a chance for entire communities, from Worcester to Welkom and the Bo-Kaap to Brakpan, to go down to their local clubs and rally behind their local heroes, as they take on the best the country has to offer in what will be the biggest matches of their lives.”
The Community Cup fixtures will be announced in due course.
POOL A: Jonsson College Rovers (KZN), GAP Despatch (EP), Villagers Worcester (BOL), Sishen (Griquas), SK Walmers (WP, wild card).
POOL B: Pretoria Police (Blue Bulls), Durbanville-Bellville (WP), Bloemfontein Police (FS), Welkom Rovers (Griffons), African Bombers (EP, wild card).
POOL C: Impala (Leopards), Roodepoort (Lions), BB Truck Noordelikes (Limpopo), Bloem Crusaders (FS, wild card), Raiders (Lions, wild card).
POOL D: Old Selbornians (BOR), Brakpan (Valke), White River (Mpumalanga), Evergreens (SWD), Roses Utd (Boland, wild card).