Cape Town - Sunday rugby, triple-headers, regional
championships and a new competition name on the rugby calendar are all part of
a major makeover for the opening provincial competition of the South African
The SuperSport Rugby Challenge will kick
off on the weekend of April 22/23 and will feature the country’s 14 provincial
unions together with Namibia’s Welwitschias in a refreshing 13-week tournament
that is set to take rugby in a whole new direction.
Professional rugby will also make a
starring appearance at well-known community rugby centres for televised rugby
Venues such as the Wolfson Stadium in Port Elizabeth, Bill Jardine
Stadium in Johannesburg, and the venue of last year’s club rugby Gold Cup final, Impala Rugby Club in Rustenburg, will host matches.
As part of the new look, the SuperSport
Rugby Challenge will SuperStack matches with as many as three games hosted
back-to-back at a single venue - one of which will be a local club rugby match.
The competition will also be divided into
three regions - north, south and central - with local bragging rights up for
“The SuperSport Rugby Challenge will take
professional rugby to places it has never been before - both literally and
metaphorically,” said Jurie Roux, SA Rugby CEO.
“A new playing day, new venues and new
match schedules will set the SuperSport Rugby Challenge apart.
“We’re very excited to see the response to
moving some of the matches away from the professional venues. The passion for
the game burns brightly in our rugby heartlands, and together with SuperSport
this is precisely where we will be going to share that excitement.”
The tournament will comprise six-pool
matches every weekend for 10 weeks, followed by seven knockout games. The 15
teams are divided into three geographical pools, with each playing home and
away against the other four teams in their pool over the 10-week period.
The top two teams from each Pool, together
with the two third-placed teams with the most log points, will qualify for the
quarter-finals, which take place on Sunday, July 2, followed by the semi-finals
a week later and the final on Sunday, July 16.
The SuperSport Rugby Challenge will be
officially launched at Bill Jardine Stadium on Tuesday, April 11 when the full
details and other innovations will be revealed.
“The rugby environment is also changing at
a rapid pace and if we don’t continue to innovate, we will be left behind,”
“The advent of Sunday rugby was unthinkable
a few years ago but changing leisure patterns and the success of last year’s
Gold Cup semi-finals, which drew a combined crowd of 9 000 people, suggest that
Sundays have appeal for modern audiences, especially for families.”
Gideon Khobane, SuperSport CEO, said: “Our
partnership with SA Rugby in particular goes way beyond international and
Vodacom Super Rugby. We see a vital role as partners in contributing to the
pipeline of players, with the SuperSport Rugby Challenge a powerful vehicle to
contribute towards that.
“We fervently hope
the SuperSport Rugby Challenge captures the imagination and takes high-level
rugby into areas where it has not necessarily been seen before.
“We at SuperSport
are excited to be bringing the best of community rugby to urban and rural
areas. We also look forward to unveiling some exciting broadcast initiatives
and want to be a part of something special, something that nurtures the massive
wealth of talent out there.”
The television spotlight is also set to
shine on club rugby, with each Sunday Festival featuring an eagerly anticipated
local derby as part of the day’s activities.
“When you take rugby back to its roots,
club rugby is a vital part of the mix,” said Roux.
“Historically there was a vital link
between club and provincial rugby that has largely been lost in the
professional era. The SuperSport Rugby Challenge will hopefully change that by
also showcasing some of SA’s biggest provincial club derbies.
“Add in the fact that these days they also
double as official Gold Cup qualifying matches, and we have all the ingredients
necessary for club rugby to thrive: packed grounds, TV exposure and a pathway
to the top for our best amateur players.”
The SuperSport Rugby Challenge Pools are:
• North: Blue
Bulls, Golden Lions, Falcons, Pumas, Welwitschias
• Central: Free State
Cheetahs, Griffons, Griquas, Leopards, Sharks XV
• South: Boland Cavaliers,
Border Bulldogs, EP Kings, SWD Eagles, Western Province