Big-time club rugby will return to Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday when one of the country’s oldest clubs, Vaseline Wanderers of Johannesburg, and Sasol of Secunda play off for a place in the 2015 Cell C Community Cup.
The match (kick-off 14h40) is the curtain-raiser to the Vodacom Blue Bulls vs Cell C Sharks Absa Currie Cup encounter. The winner will become the 15th team to qualify for the third edition of SARU’s national tournament for non-university clubs, which kicks off on 21 February 2015.
“This will surely be the highlight of our rugby careers,” said Sasol acting chairman, Attie Kruger. “Being a ‘platteland’ team from Secunda, it is an absolute privilege to play at a venue like Loftus Versfeld. We are fortunate to be linked to a world-class company like Sasol, who continually provide us with the facilities and infrastructure to play the game we all love.”
There is great interest in the new format – identical to Rugby World Cup qualifying, right down to the repechage round for lucky losers – which sees the second-best non-university clubs from all 14 Unions involved in post-season knockout clashes to claim the five remaining slots in Community Cup 2015.
Sasol reached the North region final after shocking the more fancied Oostelikes of Pretoria 33-26 in last Saturday’s semi-final in Secunda, which saw the hosts score 19 unanswered points in the last 15 minutes, including a 75-metre intercept try in the dying minutes.
Wanderers’ path to the final was equally dramatic – they held on to beat 2013 Community Cup bronze medallists G5 Metals Brakpan 45-39 at Wits University to eliminate the East Rand club from the qualification race.
Wanderers may be based in the heart of Johannesburg and have a history stretching back to 1888, but coach Neil Kalify and his players believe, like Sasol, that Saturday’s Loftus final is “a dream come true”.
“Club players very rarely get a chance to play at the big stadiums and to be able to play at Loftus in such a big match is huge,” said Kalify, who has helped revive the once-ailing club and turn them into a force once again.
The first of the five qualifiers is already confirmed after 2013 Community Cup silver medallists and KZN Fidelity Security Moor Cup runners-up Jonsson College Rovers beat Griquas No 2 Upington at Kings Park in Durban earlier this month to win the Central Region final.
All is however not lost for Upington, who will now have a third bite at the cherry in the repechage round, where they will face one of Wanderers or Sasol for a place in the final – and a shot at becoming the 20th and final team to book their place for 2015.
With just over five months to go before the start of the third edition of Community Cup, a total of 13 teams have already qualified automatically through their respective provincial premier leagues, with only the Boland and SWD leagues still to run their course.
Saturday’s Loftus final will wrap up qualifying in the country’s Central and North regions. The battle for the South East qualifying slot kicks off in Nelson Mandela Bay next Saturday when East London Police and SAPS PE meet in an all-Bobbies affair at the neutral venue of Uitenhage’s Central Ground, while the South West region will feature a mouthwatering, winner-takes-all clash next month between the second-best clubs from Western Province and Boland.
2015 Cell C Community Cup Qualifying Matches – details TBC unless otherwise stated:
SOUTH WEST REGION:
Match 1 – Boland 2 (TBC) vs WP 2 (TBC) – Winner qualifies for Community Cup as South West 1, loser to Repechage Semi-final 1. The Boland Premier League runner-up and the second-best open club in the WP Super League A will contest this one-off match, date/venue TBC.
SOUTH EAST REGION:
Match 2 – East London Police (Border 2) vs SAPS PE (EP 2) – 27 Sep, 15h00, Central Grounds, Uitenhage. Winner to Match 3. Loser eliminated.
Match 3 – Winner Match 2 vs SWD 2 – 25 Oct, venue TBC. Winner qualifies for Community Cup as South East 1, loser to Repechage Semi-final 1
Match 11 – Vaseline Wanderers vs Sasol – 20 Sep, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 14h40 (curtain-raiser to Blue Bulls vs Sharks Absa Currie Cup match). Winner qualifies for Community Cup as North 1, loser to Repechage Semi-final 2.
Match 12 – Semi-final 1: Loser Match 1 (South West) vs Loser Match 3 (South East)
Match 13 – Semi-final 2: Upington (Central) vs Loser Match 11 (North)
Match 14 – Final: Winner Match 12 vs Winner Match 13. Winner is 20th final team to qualify for Community Cup.
Pool A – Rustenburg Impala (Leopards, defending champion), Kempston Old Selbornians (Border), Springs (Valke), repechage winner, regional qualifier.
Pool B – Raiders (Golden Lions), Pretoria Police (Blue Bulls), Bloemfontein Crusaders (Free State), BB Truck Noordelikes (Limpopo), regional qualifier.
Pool C – Hamiltons (WP), Boland champion (TBC), Aveng Moolmans Sishen (Griquas), SWD champion (TBC), regional qualifier.
Pool D – SA Home Loans Durban Collegians (KZN), Gap Management Despatch (EP), Welkom Rovers (Griffons), Shumba Ferros (Mpumalanga), regional qualifier.