Two of the favourites in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, the Pumas and the Blue Bulls, have been drawn one another in the first match of the 2019 competition on Friday night.
No less than eight Rugby Festivals – from Mdantsane and Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape, Rustenburg in North West to Ravensmead in the Western Cape – will highlight the 2019 SuperSport Rugby Challenge, while the Border Bulldogs will take part in the competition, even though the union was put into administration because of financial problems in October.
♦ The decision to include the Bulldogs in the competition was taken after funding was made available by the Eastern Cape Department of Sport and the first of the Rugby Festivals – where communities across the country will be able to enjoy top class provincial action – originally scheduled for the Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane on Sunday, will now move to the Buffalo City Stadium in East London.
The recent heavy rains in the area have rendered the Sisa Dukashe Stadium unsafe to host Sunday’s double-header and in the interest of player safety, a decision was taken to move the festival to the Buffalo City Stadium.
The fixtures remain unchanged with the SWD Eagles taking on DHL Western Province at 12h30, followed by the Border Bulldogs and Zimbabwe Academy at 14h30. Entry into the stadium is free.
♦ The community-centred element of the tournament – which kicks off in Nelspruit on Friday and concludes with the final on Sunday 30 June – will again feature a number of televised match-ups at the Sunday Rugby Festivals.
In a change of competition format from previous years, the SuperSport Rugby Challenge will this year be split into two sections – North and South – with the top two teams from each section progressing to the semi-finals.
To add more flavour to the already diverse venues that will see action, matches will be played at Namibia's home base in Windhoek, while the Zimbabweans, playing in the competition for the first time and featuring in the South Section, will use False Bay Rugby Club in Cape Town as their base for the duration of the tournament.
Defending champions, the Pumas, will spearhead the North Section alongside the Griffons, Leopards, Blue Bulls, Namibia, Golden Lions XV, Griquas and Valke.
The South Section will consist of the Free State XV, Sharks XV, SWD Eagles, Western Province, Boland, EP Elephants, Border and Zimbabwe.
♦ The opening match in the South Section, between Free State XV and Sharks XV, will be played as a curtain raiser to the PRO 14 clash between the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Boland and the EP Elephants will face each other in Wellington, before the weekend closes out with the televised action in Mdantsane, where entry will be free.
The action in the Northern Section gets underway Friday night with the Pumas starting the defence of their crown against the Blue Bulls in Nelspruit.
The Leopards will travel to Welkom to play the Griffons on Saturday, Griquas host the Valke, while Namibia will welcome the Xerox Golden Lions XV in Windhoek.