SA Club rugby hotting up
Cape Town - With the Vodacom Cup a thing of the past and the Absa Currie Cup yet to start, rugby fans in the Northern Cape will shift their attention to their respective club teams as the Griqualand West Super League kicks off across South Africa's largest rugby province on Saturday.
Kimberley Police may be favourites to defend their title but head coach Eddie Lightfoot believes that their road to the National Club Championships couldn't have had a more daunting start, with his team hosting 2009 champions Kuruman at Itec Park (kick-off 16h30).
"We have our sights set on holding onto the trophy but we are starting off our season against probably our toughest opposition in the league. Kuruman are very strong and we are fortunate to have home ground advantage,” said Lightfoot.
Apart from Kuruman, Lightfoot believes that newcomers Ammasol should not be underestimated. "Ammasol are also likely to have a good run this season," he said of the former powerhouse club that has undergone a revival of late.
"With (former Griquas wing) Jearus Nicholas coaching them I think they are likely to be well prepared and in good shape at the start of the competition."
Ammasol's first test back in the top flight will see them play at home in Postmasburg against United from Upington (kick-off 16h00).
In a league where teams travel hundreds of kms across the vast Northern Cape province, home ground advantage is crucial. For this reason, Upington Dorp will be favoured to begin their title challenge with a win when they come up against Sishen (kick-off 16h00) to complete the first round of fixtures in the six team competition.
In other action from around the country, FNB Maties' 28-19 home loss to FNB UCT in the annual Intervarsity has set the cat amongst the pigeons in the Western Province Super League A. The leader after the first round of nine matches qualifies for the National Club Championships and the Ikeys' victory, together with 2009 champions Hamiltons' 32-31 win over Stellenbosch's other team, the Steinhoff Victorians, has ensured that as many as six teams are mathematically still in the running.
In a number of other provinces some interesting two-way tussles are developing, none more intriguing than in KwaZulu-Natal where just one point separates unbeaten front-runners Acer Durban Collegians and current national club champions Jonsson College Rovers in the Fidelity Security Premier Division, after both sides chalked up their fourth successive victories over Bluff Superspar Harlequins and Varsity College Old Boys respectively.
One of the country's strongest upcountry non-university clubs, Springs, are the team to beat in the Valke Peregrine Super League although archrivals Brakpan and dark horses NWU Vaal Pukke are still in contention.
FNB Tuks stay top of the Blue Bulls' Carlton League after their 31-10 win over Centurion.
In Border's league, Old Selbornians' 15-12 victory over Buffalo has set up an interesting top-of-the-table clash against Fort Hare on Saturday after the students hammered Cambridge 37-0. "Everything just came together," said Fort Hare coach Elliot Fana of his team's performance. "That's the game I was looking for and the players delivered."
Progress's chances of retaining the EP Grand Challenge trophy look increasingly unlikely after the Uitenhage side lost their third match of the season, 22-10 against Port Elizabeth Harlequins, while in the Free State First League Shimlas hung on for a 14-10 win against their strongest rivals, Old Greys, in what Shimlas coach Dougie Heymans described afterwards as "a mudbath".
FNB UJ's 38-29 win over Roodepoort keeps them at the top of the Golden Lions' Pirates Grand Challenge log, ahead of Raiders and Pirates, while unbeaten Vryburg won the big battle in Leopards country, edging Klerksdorp 26-24 to notch their fifth straight win.
Middelburg won the Mpumalanga Hoëveld-Koolveld derby 27-15 over Sasol Secunda, while Witrivier appear unstoppable in the Lowveld League following their 63-35 victory over Belfast - their seventh on the trot.
In the Griffons' First Division, Rovers won the Welkom Derby 32-17 against Welkom Club. With no league action this week, the two traditional Northern Free State powerhouses come up against Henneman and Wesselsbron respectively in President's Cup knockout matches on Thursday.
Newcomers Saldanha Bay picked up an invaluable 18-15 win over Ceres in the Boland Premier League, while Progress continued their fairytale season in the SWD Premier League with a 16-15 win over Crusaders - their eighth victory in nine matches.