Open clubs hope to set record straight

University sides have dominated the National Club Champs in the last eight years, but that could all change this season.

Eleven of the 14 provincial qualifying spots have already been confirmed and defending champions Leopard’s NWU-Pukke and Free State’s Shimlas are the only two university teams that have made the cut so far.

However, this figure could rise to three as Tukkies are still in the running to qualify for the tournament.

The favourites to lift the cup this year are two of South Africa’s oldest rugby clubs – Johannesburg-based Pirates from the Golden Lions union (who were the last open club to win the title in 2001) and Hamiltons from Western Province.

Great Brakriver (South Western Districts), Rovers (Griffons), Springs (Valke), College Rovers (KZN), Kuruman (Griquas), Rawsonville (Boland) and Middleburg (Pumas) are the other teams that have qualified for the most prestigious tournament on the club rugby calender.

Three provinces – Blue Bulls, Border and Eastern Province – are yet to crown their champions. The Bulls and Border championship finals will both take place on Saturday, while EP’s final will be played on 29 August.

The National Club Championship will take place at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria from 20-26 September.