Cape Town - The knockout rounds in the new-look Gold
Cup have arrived a week early, with all
16 clubs still in the running for the eight quarter-final slots going into
Saturday’s final round.
SA Rugby’s flagship national championship for
non-university clubs, championed by 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok
captain John Smit, delivered a number of surprise second-round results,
including defeats for a number of pre-tournament favourites.
Durbanville-Bellville, who famously won the
2015 Gold Cup in fairytale fashion having been seeded last among 20 teams, and
2017 finalists College Rovers, are among the big guns who face early
elimination after following up comfortable opening-weekend wins with narrow
defeats in last weekend’s second round, to Rhinos (37-33) and Gardens (30-28) respectively.
Rustenburg Impala, champions in 2014 and
2016, might have found themselves in the same boat had they not recovered from
a 15-point half-time deficit to run out 38-36 victors at home over Swallows, whom Impala coach Nico le Roux afterwards said were the most physical
team his side had encountered in three years.
Conversely, the competitiveness and sheer
unpredictability of this year’s tournament, which has played out to capacity
crowds from all walks of life, has put a number of teams who tasted defeat in
round one just one win away from the last eight.
In Pool B, Gardens’ 19-14 opening-day
defeat to Secunda was all but forgotten at a packed Derrick
Ferreira Stadium in Uitenhage when the EP champions kicked a late penalty to
sink Rovers, the KZN champions, who had beaten wildcards East
Rand United in round one.
And in the pool’s other match, East Rand Utd
bounced back from their defeat in Durban to beat Secunda 34-22
at The Graveyard in Reiger Park, leaving all four sides with one win apiece.
Saturday’s matches therefore are effectively knockout affairs as ERU host
Gardens and Rovers travel to Secunda.
The same scenario will play out in Pool A, with
SWD champions Progress George and Boland title-holders Villagers Worcester still in playoff contention.
Progress must however undertake an arduous
journey by plane and bus from George to Setaria, near Thabazimbi, to face
Limpopo champions Rhinos, whose win over Durbell in Cape Town has given the
platinum miners the self-belief that they are not merely making up the numbers
Durbell have a much shorter away journey this
weekend but it is arguably even tougher than that of their Western Cape
neighbours: they must travel up the N1 to Worcester, where another 10 000-plus
crowd awaits them at Boland Park, where victory for the home side may yet see
them into a first-ever Gold Cup playoff match.
Pools C and D are no less intriguing, with a
number of hitherto unfancied teams having also suddenly sniffed the opportunity
to sneak into the last eight.
In Pool C, Free State clubs Bloemfontein Police and Welkom host Naka Bulls and Sishen respectively, with defeat for any club likely to signal the end of their
And in Pool D, bottom-placed Springs will
need a full haul of five points against Impala at Olympia Park in Ekurhuleni if
they are to have any chance of making the playoffs. In the other match, Roodepoort must travel to Mdantsane outside East London to face up to
Both teams are level on log points and a
victory for either side will likely see them through, regardless of the result
of the other match.
"Amateur club rugby
is where rugby and communities are built from the ground up," said Smit, the
acting CEO of SSG Holdings and the face of this year’s tournament. "The unsung heroes
in these communities need to be given the opportunity to be celebrated and the
Gold Cup is one of the ideal platforms to achieve this.
"The Gold Cup’s
vision of building communities and providing opportunities is shared
wholeheartedly by SSG Holdings, Blu Approved and M4Jam," Smit added. "We are
proud to be associated with the grassroots game and we look forward to seeing
the tournament grow from strength to strength."
fixtures all kick off at 16:00. The results and quarterfinal lineup will be
publicised shortly after the matches on the tournament’s Twitter
(@GoldCupRugby) and Facebook (The SSG Gold Cup) platforms.
ROUND 3 FIXTURES:
Saturday, March 23 (all
matches to kick off at 16:00):
Rhinos v Progress George (Setaria Recreation Club, Limpopo)
Villagers Worcester v Durbanville-Bellville
(Boland Park, Worcester)
East Rand United v Gardens (The Graveyard, Reigerpark)
Secunda v College Rovers (Sasol Recreation Club, Secunda)
Welkom v Sishen (Griffons B field, Welkom)
Bloemfontein Police v Midas Naka Bulls (Bobbies Park, Bloemfontein)
Swallows v Roodepoort (NU1 Stadium, Mdantsane)
Springs v Rustenburg Impala (Olympia Park, Springs)