A showdown in Rustenburg
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: All eyes will be on the North West city of Rustenburg on Saturday when the drama of the final round of the Gold Cup, SA Rugby’s championship for non-university clubs, is broadcast to an international television audience.
Unbeaten Pool B leaders Impala, the 2014 champions and last year’s runners-up, will host second-placed Pirates in a match the Johannesburg team must win in order to stand a chance of qualifying for next weekend’s quarterfinals.
"In terms of exposure and prominence, it doesn’t get much bigger than this in club rugby," said SA Rugby CEO, Jurie Roux. "A few years ago, we could only dream about regular live TV games for so-called open clubs. Now we have a match that is effectively a broadcast curtain-raiser for arguably the biggest game in world rugby, a Springboks-All Blacks Test.
"Club rugby, through the vehicle of the Gold Cup, is rapidly returning to the spotlight and has crept back into the hearts of the rugby public. I encourage all fans to tune in on Saturday and be part of this revival,"
From a tournament perspective, the Rustenburg clash will also be watched with great interest in Namibia, where fourth-placed Wanderers Windhoek host third Evergreens of George in Windhoek in Pool B’s other crunch clash. The permutations are complex in what has been a hugely competitive group, but in simple terms, should Impala beat Pirates, the winner of the Windhoek match will most likely advance to next Saturday’s quarterfinals.
Pool B might not be the only group requiring calculators on Saturday evening to determine which teams advance to the knockout rounds. In Pool C, Old Georgians of Harare – who have surprised friend and foe with two victories in their three matches to date – must beat log-leaders Siyaya Brakpan at Bosman Stadium and hope bottom club White River beat second-placed False Bay in Cape Town to complete what has been a fairytale tournament debut for the Zimbabwe champions.
In Pool A, with defending champions, Durbanville-Bellville and newly-crowned KZN champions Your Communications College Rovers already assured of their quarterfinal places, Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash in Cape Town loses none of its bite, with both sides playing to see who gets the all-important home-ground advantage going into the knockout rounds.
"This year’s format change has worked a treat," said Roux. "In the past, the top eight clubs would play at a central venue, but now there is a massive carrot to secure a home-ground advantage, which in turn means home support, more income for the club, TV exposure, and the chance to host the final.
"The change has introduced a completely new dynamic to the Gold Cup and the race to see who hosts knockout games will become even more intriguing when one considers that one of next week’s quarterfinals, both semifinals, and the final will be broadcast live,"
In this vein, even Pool D, which sees Pretoria Police holding an unassailable lead going into their final group match against East London Police, retains its interest as the Pretoria Bobbies will know that a fourth consecutive bonus-point victory will give them the best possible chance of hosting this year’s final, should they make it that far.
The quarterfinal line-up will be confirmed on Saturday evening following the completion of the final round.
Round Five fixtures:
Saturday, October 8:
Durbanville-Bellville v College Rovers
(Durbell Rugby Club, Cape Town - Kick-off: 15.00)
Old Selbornians v Welkom Rovers
(Mike Pendock Motors Park, East London - Kick-off: 15.00)
Rustenburg Impala v Pirates
(Impala Rugby Club, Rustenburg – Kick-off: 13.30)
Wanderers Windhoek v Evergreens
(Wanderers Club, Windhoek - Kick-off: 15.00)
Siyaya Brakpan v Old Georgians
(Bosman Stadium, Brakpan - Kick-off: 15.00)
False Bay v White River
(Phillip Herbstein Field, Constantia, Cape Town - Kick-off: 15.00)
Bloemfontein Police v Belaz Sishen
(Bobbies Park, Bloemfontein - Kick-off: 15.00)
Pretoria Police v East London Police
(Loftus Versfeld B, Pretoria - Kick-off: 15.00)