Maties to host Club Champs

Stellenbosch University will host the 34th National Club Championships for the fourth year in a row.

The tournament will take place from 7-13 September, and Varsity Cup winners Maties will host the week-long event on behalf of the home union Western Province. The format is unchanged from 2007, with the country’s 14 provincial champions joined by six unconfirmed black clubs in a 20-team draw.

Seven teams have already booked their places at the tournament. Brakpan beat Springs 35-33 in a Valke qualifier that went to extra time, Welkom beat Rovers 33-25 in the Griffons league final, while Kimberley Police won the Griquas title with a nailbiting 33-28 victory over Upington.

They will be joined in Stellenbosch by hosts and defending champions Maties (WP Super League A first-round winners), Pukke (automatic Leopards representatives), College Rovers (KZN Premier Division champions), as well as Roses United (Boland Premier League first-round winners).

League finals scheduled for the coming weeks will determine the Blue Bulls, Golden Lions, South Western Districts, Border, Free State and Mpumalanga champions, while the Eastern Province representative at club champs will be the team that finishes top of the Grand Challenge league.

With five rounds remaining, the EP title is a two-horse race between Despatch, on 68 points, and Gardens, who have 67. The potential league decider between the two sides was one of three matches postponed last week due to provincial amateur call-ups.

In other matches, Crusaders beat Brumbies 19-18 and NMMU whipped Spring Rose 58-7. Saturday’s fixtures (3.30pm): Despatch v NMMU, Suburban v Gardens, Park v SAPS, Brumbies v Harlequins, Progress v Crusaders, Spring Rose v Kruisfontein.

The Free State Stadsbeker final is scheduled for 2 August between university sides Shimlas (University of the Free State) and Ixias (Central University of Technology). Both teams won 10 of their 12 league matches but Shimlas picked up one extra bonus point along the way to finish top of the table.

Defending champions Old Greys finished third to end their dreams of returning to the Club Champs, where they surprised everyone in 2007 by reaching the semi-finals, where they lost narrowly (26-20) to eventual winners Maties.

The final match in the KwaZulu-Natal Premier Division saw 2005 Club Champs semi-finalists, Durban Collegians, thrash wooden spoonists Maritzburg Varsity 45-3 to finish a disappointing fifth on the eight-team log.

The quarter-finals of the Murray Cup knockout tournament kick off at 8pm on Friday evening, with league champs and Moor Cup holders College Rovers hosting Harlequins at Kings Park, runners-up Crusaders at home to Jaguars, Collegians travelling across the Umgeni River to play Old Boys, and Zululand Rhinos – one of the most improved teams in the country this year – hosting Maritzburg Varsity at Mick Kelly Park in Empangeni.

With Maties only resuming their WP Super League campaign this weekend after a long winter break, SK Walmers have moved to the top of the log following their 32-3 win over struggling Tygerberg. UCT beat Helderberg 41-33 to move to fourth, while relegation-threatened NNK shocked Villagers 38-25 to keep alive their hopes of staying in the top flight.
Fixtures – Friday (9pm): UCT v SK Walmers, NNK v Tygerberg. Saturday (4pm): Maties v Helderberg, Durbanville-Bellville v Villagers, Victorians v Hamiltons.

The second stage of the Blue Bulls’ Carlton League concluded with Tukkies and Centurion playing to a 27-all draw on Tuesday, after the weekend had seen Centurion whip Eersterust 75-7, Silver Valke beat Harlequins 29-18, Police thrash Brits 97-6 and Naka Bulle hammer Pretoria 68-7.

The semi-finalists from Section X are winners Tukkies and second-placed Centurion. Section Y winners TUT, who are unbeaten this year in 13 matches, are joined in the last four by Police, the 2006 Carlton champions.

The Golden Lions’ play-off fixtures have been confirmed after the 21-team Pirates Grand Challenge league wrapped up last weekend. The top eight clubs will clash in the Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday 6 August, with league winners UJ hosting Roodepoort, runners-up Pirates at home to Alberton, Pukke hosting Raiders, and Randfontein taking on Impala. The final takes place on 20 August.

Final round results: Alberton 20 Union 18, Edenvale 32 Germiston Simmer 14, Jeppe Old Boys 20 Police 35, Pirates 21 Raiders 16, Randfontein 30 Harlequins 14, Roodepoort 10 Pukke 36, Wanderers 16 Inquina 19, Wits 28 Impalas 59, Eden Park 9 Soweto 15, Eldoronians 18 Diggers 10.

Swallows moved to the top of the Border Premier League’s Super 8 standings with a 17-15 win over champions Buffalo, who lost their 17-match unbeaten record in the process. In other matches, Police beat Cambridge 20-10, Old Selbornians edged Fort Hare 22-15, and Winter Rose beat Evergreen 29-10.
Friday sees Police host Old Selbornians, while Fort Hare are at home to Buffalo on Saturday. Kick-off 3.30pm.

Bridgton’s lead in the SWD Premier League has been cut to four points with just three rounds remaining before the semi-finals. Second-placed Barbarians’ 27-13 win over Blanco has almost guaranteed them a home play-off, with Evergreens and Grootbrakriver handily placed to complete the top four.
Saturday’s fixtures: Evergreens v Bridgton, Barbarians v Progress, Grootbrak v Crusaders, NMMU-George v Blanco.

Roses United will be hoping to maintain their lead in the Boland Premier League when they host Abbotsdale on Saturday. In other matches, Ceres are at home to Wesbank, Rawsonville host Delicious, Villagers Montagu travel to Villagers Worcester, and Black Leaves are away to Wellington.

There are no matches scheduled for this weekend in the Valke Super League, the Leopards’ Neser A league, or Mpumalanga Super League, due to provincial amateur fixtures.