Reigning national club champions College Rovers will play Despatch in the opening match of the inaugural Community Cup on 16 February in Durban.
The fixtures for the pool stages of the World Cup-style tournament were announced on Tuesday, with Rovers earning the right to host the televised opener after beating Pretoria Police in the final of the last-ever National Club Championships, which were held in Rustenburg in September.
The Community Cup, which replaces the Club Champs, will see 20 of SA’s top non-university clubs battle it out in 52 matches across the country over a six-week period, in a tournament that includes five rounds of pool matches at club venues and play-offs to be held in George over the Easter long weekend.
The inaugural Community Cup final will take place at Outeniqua Park on 1 April, with the winners playing the Varsity Cup champions for the overall national title, on a date to be confirmed.
The Rovers-Despatch Pool A opener is also a repeat of the match of the tournament in Rustenburg, which saw the KZN champions trail the resurgent Eastern Cape outfit 30-28 with five minutes remaining of their Cup quarter-final before running out 41-30 victors.
With the four Club Champs semi-finalists seeded first in their pools and the teams they beat in the Rustenburg quarters seeded second, there are another three enticing rematches in store for the opening weekend of the Community Cup.
WP’s Durbanville-Bellville, who beat Maties home and away in the WP Super League in 2012, will get the chance to avenge their 36-25 defeat to Pretoria Police when they travel to the SAPS Training Academy for what promises to be a crunch Pool B encounter between two of the tournament favourites.
Roodepoort will have similar ideas in Pool C when they return to Rustenburg to face Impala, who beat them 31-19 back in September. And in the final seeded match-up of Round 1, Old Selbornians will want to show that their 28-26 win over Brakpan at the Club Champs was no fluke when they host the tough East Rand outfit in East London in a heavyweight Pool D encounter.
Elsewhere around the country on the opening weekend, Boland title holders Villagers Worcester are at home to Griquas champions Sishen, Griffons champs Welkom Rovers travel to Zwide Stadium outside Port Elizabeth to take on wild cards African Bombers, Limpopo’s top-ranked club Noordelikes kick off their campaign with a fixture in Polokwane against another wild card, Raiders, while Mpumalanga champions White River undertake a marathon journey from the Lowveld to the Boland to take on Roses United in Wellington.
Community Cup fixtures (kick-off times TBC):
Round 1 – Saturday, 16 February
Pool A – College Rovers vs Despatch (Durban); Villagers Worcester vs Sishen (Worcester)
Pool B – Pretoria Police vs Durbanville-Bellville (Pretoria); African Bombers vs Welkom Rovers (Port Elizabeth)
Pool C – Rustenburg Impala vs Roodepoort (Rustenburg); Noordelikes vs Raiders (Polokwane)
Pool D – Old Selbornian vs Brakpan (East London); Roses United vs White River (Wellington)
Round 2 – Saturday, 23 February
Pool A – Sishen vs College Rovers (Kathu); SK Walmers vs Villagers Worcester (Cape Town)
Pool B – Durbanville-Bellville vs African Bombers (Cape Town); Welkom Rovers vs Bloem Police (Welkom)
Pool C – Roodepoort vs Noordelikes (Roodepoort); Raiders vs Bloem Crusaders (Johannesburg)
Pool D – Brakpan vs Roses United (Brakpan); White River vs Evergreens (White River)
Round 3 – Saturday, 2 March
Pool A – Despatch vs Villagers Worcester (Despatch); Sishen vs SK Walmers (Kathu)
Pool B – Bloem Police vs Durbanville-Bellville (Bloemfontein); African Bombers vs Pretoria Police (Zwide)
Pool C – Rustenburg Impala vs Bloem Crusaders (Rustenburg); Roodepoort vs Raiders (Roodepoort)
Pool D – Evergreens vs Brakpan (Pacaltsdorp); Roses United vs Broubart Old Selbornian (Wellington)
Round 4 – Saturday, 9 March
Pool A – Jonsson College Rovers vs SK Walmers (Durban); Despatch vs Sishen (Despatch)
Pool B – Welkom Rovers vs Pretoria Police (Welkom); Bloem Police vs African Bombers (Bloemfontein)
Pool C – Bloem Crusaders vs Roodepoort (Heidedal); Noordelikes vs Rustenburg Impala (Polokwane)
Pool D – Old Selbornian vs Evergreens (East London); Brakpan vs White River (Brakpan)
Round 5 – Saturday, 16 March
Pool A – SK Walmers vs Despatch (Cape Town); Villagers Worcester vs College Rovers (Worcester)
Pool B – Pretoria Police vs Bloem Police (Pretoria); Durbanville-Bellville vs Welkom Rovers (Cape Town)
Pool C – Raiders vs Rustenburg Impala (Johannesburg); Bloem Crusaders vs Noordelikes (Heidedal)
Pool D – White River vs Old Selbornian (White River); Evergreens vs Roses United (Pacaltsdorp)
Easter Play-offs (Outeniqua Park, George):
Thursday, 28 March – Cup quarter-finals:
QF1 – Winner C vs Runner-up D
QF2 – Winner B vs Runner-up A
QF3 – Winner D vs Runner-up C
QF4 – Winner A vs Runner-up B
Saturday, 30 March – Bowl & Cup semi-finals:
Loser QF1 vs Loser QF2
Loser QF3 vs Loser QF4
Winner QF1 vs Winner QF2
Winner QF3 vs Winner QF4
Monday, 1 April – Finals:
Shield – Loser Bowl Bowl SF1 vs Loser Bowl SF2
Bowl – Winner Bowl SF1 vs Winner Bowl SF2
Plate – Loser Cup SF1 vs Loser Cup SF2
Cup – Winner Cup SF1 vs Winner Cup SF2