White River to clock up the kilometres

Mpumalanga champions White River face the longest journey when the Community Cup kicks off on 16 February.

For their match against wild cards Roses United in Wellington on the opening weekend, the Lowvelders face a return journey of more than 3 400km, starting with a bus journey of over 550km from White River to OR Tambo International Airport, before boarding a flight for Cape Town and thereafter a bus to the Boland.

‘It’s a gruelling schedule but we’re very excited and privileged to be a part of the Community Cup,’ said White River chairman Fanie Roos. ‘Teams [Evergreens and Old Selbornian] must also travel here, so it works both ways and we need to make our home ground advantage count.’

National club champions College Rovers will travel to Port Elizabeth on Thursday for a friendly match on Saturday against the EP Kings’ Vodacom Cup squad. And their opponents in the opening match, Despatch, will play fellow EP Grand Challenge rivals Spring Rose this coming weekend before taking on the Kings next week.

‘We’re very happy with our preparations so far and we’re on track,’ said Despatch chairman Marius Swanepoel. ‘Head coach Adri Geldenhuys has been putting the guys through their paces and Monty Dumond is helping out with the backline. [Former Springbok centre] Danie Gerber has been taking the guys for some fitness sessions so we’ll be ready.

‘Off the field, we’re painting the grandstand and the field is looking good ahead of our first match against Sishen on 2 March. There’s already interest building and we hope to attract a big crowd for the games.’

Wild cards African Bombers, who will host Welkom Rovers and Pretoria Police at Zwide Stadium in the coming weeks, have already got a match under the belt, having beaten Zwide in a friendly last week.

With just over three weeks remaining until kick-off, the 20 teams are gearing up for pre-tournament friendlies to sharpen their match fitness ahead of the World Cup-style tournament, which sees the sides divided into four pools of five.

A total of 40 pool matches will be played over the five-week period from 16 February to 16 March, with each club playing four matches – two home and two away. Incredibly, teams will cover a combined distance over 62 000km during the pool stages – an average return journey of over 1 550km per match.

The top two sides from each pool will then advance to the play-offs, which will be held at Outeniqua Park in George over the Easter weekend. The quarter- and semi-finals will take place on 28 and 30 March respectively, with Shield, Bowl, Plate and Cup finals to be contested on Easter Monday, 1 April.

The winners of the Community Cup will play the Varsity Cup champions for the overall national club championship title, on a date to be confirmed.