Grass roots rugby comes to Ellis Park this weekend with a match up between Soweto Rugby Club and Bethlehem Zebras being staged as one of the curtain raisers to the Currie Cup match between the Golden Lions and Western Province.
The match is the return leg of the South African Rugby Supporters Union (SARSU) Derby day which took place in Bethlehem on 28 July, and which saw Soweto gain a narrow, exciting victory.
The SARSU Derby Day project in Bethlehem also involved a series of coaching clinics and a round table discussion in the build up to the match. Bethlehem Zebras is a local team drawn mainly from players in the local townships and the match took place in the stadium in Bohlokong.
The SARSU Derby Day is the first project of the newly formed supporters union, and is aimed at fostering the game at all levels, providing support in whichever way possible for lovers of the game.
“This project is perfect for SARSU because it represents exactly the areas where we need to see growth in the game â€“ the townships and the rural areas,” says David de Jong, chairman of SARSU, “Here we have two township teams, one from Witwatersrand, and the other from the platteland coming together. While the test, Super 14 and Currie Cup teams steal the headlines, this is the very coalface and future of the game.”
Dali Ndebele, Chairman of the Soweto Rugby Club was just as enthusiastic. “Frankly, we were surprised at the quality of the Zebras, and their two early tries in the first game certainly came as a wake up call! Whilst we managed to snatch a win in the closing minutes, it underlined the wealth of talent available in the smaller towns in South Africa. Rugby is, first and foremost, about community and building sporting relationships with other communities. After having accepted the wonderful hospitality of the people in the Eastern Free State we managed to pull a few strings and have the return match staged at Ellis Park. This should be a wonderful experience for the Zebras guys who’ll be able to return home knowing that they’ve played at one of the worlds most famous rugby grounds.”
Brendon Shields, organizer of the Derby project, and originally from Bethlehem, notes that the region has produced many Springboks, including current World Cup squad members Bismarck du Plessis and Francois Steyn.
“The growth and enthusiasm of the Zebras club shows that future Springboks from the region need not only come from the traditional white Afrikaner sources,” says Shields.
Rugby fans attending the Currie Cup match are therefore encouraged to come a few hours earlier and enjoy some exciting club rugby