Baby Bulls tackle Lions in warm-up

The Northern Unions Bondedag takes place at the Rustenburg Impala Rugby club on Thursday.

The Bondedag is a traditional pre-Craven Week warm-up festival involving all the inland provinces. It is organised by the Northvaal association: the organisation consisting of the unions that were part of the old Transvaal province, the affiliated schools of whom played in the Administrator’s Trophy (later Director’s Trophy, and now Beeld Trophy).

With Saru’s re-alignment of provincial unions, and the demise of the Lowveld, Vaal Triangle and Stellaland unions, teams from outside of the Northvaal area have been invited to the day over the years. Free State and Northern Free State are regular participants and, at times, Griquas, KwaZulu-Natal, and even Namibia have played there.

In recent years, University of Johannesburg and North West University became involved in sponsoring the day, so it has been staged on either of their campuses in the past. This year it goes to an open club – Rustenburg Impala.

KwaZulu-Natal and Griquas aren’t taking part this year, and it is being played on a weekday, on the day after the school term ends, to avoid clashing with soccer World Cup activities.

The Grey College-studded Free State side will play the Pumas in the opening game and, considering the way that Grey has swept everyone aside so far this season, they can be expected to win.

In game two the Valke meet the Limpopo Blue Bulls. The Blue Bulls union is one of the few that is allowed to send two team to the Craven Week – based on the strength of the Pretoria schools and the remote location of its Limpopo region. Limpopo is one of the traditional ‘heartland’ areas of rugby in the country, and it frequently punches above its weight at this level.

The Valke lost to the Golden Lions last week, but were well in the game for a long time and look to have a solid team this year.

The Golden Lions vs Blue Bulls game is the big one of the day. The Lions have come through their warm-up games against the Valke and Leopards unscathed, while the Bulls have beaten the Leopards and Pumas.

There are 11 Monument players in the Lions side, and 10 from Affies in the Bulls, so it looks a bit like a rematch of the game between the two a few weeks ago, which was won by Monument. Much will depend, of course, on the quality of the rest of the players making us the respective sides, but this should be a tight game between two provinces that have always been among the top four at Craven Week.

The day is rounded up with a clash between the hosts, the Leopards, and the Northern Free State Griffons. The Craven Week is in Welkom this year and chances are that the Griffons, as hosts, will have put a bit more into their preparation as a result. It will be interesting to see how they shape up.

Thursday’s programme:
09:00 – Free State vs Pumas
10:20 – Valke vs Limpopo Blue Bulls
11:40 – Golden Lions vs Blue Bulls
12:40 – Leopards vs Griffons

By Gauteng correspondent