A 60-year-old club left the Blue Bulls leagues after 35 years to try its luck in the Senior Grand Challenge League of the Golden Lions this year.
Hartbeespoort chairman Chris du Toit says in a news release the decision was taken because the club was excluded from the Bulls new Volcano Trophy series, notwithstanding the clubs excellent track record since 2014.
Du Toit says although the club is affiliated to the Leopards Rugby Union it has been playing, with permission, in the Bulls leagues for the past 35 years.
Hartbeespoort reached the final of the Carlton-C League every year from 2014 to 2016 and won it in 2016. It won a promotion-relegation match to the Carlton-B League where it reached the semi-finals in 2017 and 2018. The club also won the Flya series in 2016 and 2017 and its division in the Assupol series in 2017.
According to the club’s news release the other three clubs who played in the Carlton-B semi-finals were all included in the new league.
Eugene Hare, CEO of the Blue Bulls Rugby Union (BBRU), told Rugbyvaria that the union does not dispute Hartbeespoort's achievements from 2014 to 2016, but that there is more to the BBRU decision than the news release discloses.
"Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and Tuine, both also Carlton B clubs, participated in a higher league against the second teams of the Carlton-A clubs. They were therefore given the first opportunity to participate in the Volcano Trophy series, with Dragons and Correctional Services.
"These clubs all have three teams as the competition requires. They compete against senior league clubs of the Valke (Boksburg, Brakpan and Vereeniging) and the Leopards (Klerksdorp and Potch-Dorp)," Hare said.
"Hartebeespoort competed in the Carlton-B League with only two teams during 2018, although the league requirement is actually three teams. The first team finished fourth in its division and competed in the semi-finals, losing 10-46 to Pretoria.
"However, the second team withdrew five times from its 14 fixtures. The executive committee wrote to Hartbeespoort to get confirmation with regard to their continued participation in the BBRU leagues and to determine their sustainability. The other clubs were uneasy, especially about the timing of withdrawals.
"[The club] on 19 November 2018 undertook to at all times field two teams in the BBRU leagues. In January 2019 it came to my attention that Hartbeespoort is considering to rather align with the Lions," Hare said.
♦ According to Hartbeespoort's news release the club will participate in the Lions' Senior Grand Challenge League with three teams (first, second and under 19) with the possibility to join the Pirates Grand Challenge League in 2020.
Friendlies against Predators and Diggers are planned for 23 February and 2 March, and the first official club fixture is a sevens tournament on 23 March.