It is with more than the usual interest that one looks forward to the kick-off of the Blue Bulls’ second season of cross-border club competitions on Saturday.
Last year showed the way in this competition, and with a fully-fledged Carlton Cup competition also being played this season, the Blue Bulls’ vision of reviving club rugby is fast becoming a reality.
Add the new-look Gold Cup competition for open clubs, with 80 instead of 16 clubs nationally taking part, this time on a knock-out basis, and followers of club rugby in Pretoria and environs have plenty of action to look forward to.
The realisation that their professional budget and the number of players have to shrink in line with the guidelines established by SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, is increasingly being followed by the four Super Rugby franchises, none more so than by the Bulls.
In fact, the “amateur” arm of the Blue Bulls Rugby Union was a leap ahead of the others when they overhauled their club structure last year and established a cross border league system, with two competitions (the Volcano Super Cup and Trophy competitions) being played in 2019.
There were three senior leagues and an Under-20 league in each of the two competitions which proved so successful that 80 players from the two U20 leagues were selected by various of the 14 unions for the national U19 and U20 competitions.
2020 Cross-border leagues launched with new sponsor
A few weeks ago the Northern Region Unions announced the TW Profile as the new sponsor and launched the TW Profile Super League and Trophy cross-border competitions on the back of last year’s successful Volcano competitions that included the premier clubs of the Blue Bulls, Valke and the Leopards. Tuks is the defending Super League and Carlton champions whilst QBR won an exciting U20-competition last year.
♦ Yes, the growth of club rugby, the amount of resources invested into clubs by individuals and the new initiatives and leagues are contributing to a new golden era for club rugby in the Blue Bulls region.
President’s Cup Challenge: Blue Bulls vs Golden Lions top four
In another new initiative this year the President Club Challenge will kick-off on 21 March at Loftus Versfeld when the four top non-tertiary clubs of the Blue Bulls will play against their Lions counterparts. In the main match of the day. the Blue Bulls first rank team, ABE Midas Naka Bulle will face Wanderers from the Lions.
The spreading of their club rugby wings by the BBRU is in line with the SA Rugby expansion of the
Gold Cup competition from 16 to 80 clubs in what will this year be a knock-out competition.
Clubs to play bigger role in High Performance Programme of the BBCo
According to Willem Strauss (left), President of the Blue Bulls Rugby Union, “the professional clubs at the Blue Bulls Rugby Union will be playing an ever bigger role in the High Performance Programme of the BBCo because of the reduction of contracts. Last season no less than 80 players from the (now) TW Profile Super leagues represented provincial Under 20, Under 19 and SuperSport Challenge teams. Ethan Wentzel (Centurion), played for the SA Under 19 team, Hencus van Wyk (Naka Bulle) represented the British Barbarians, Fred Eksteen (Tuks) played for the Blue Bulls Currie Cup team and Ig Prinsloo and Christopher Hollis (both from Naka Bulle) represented the EP Kings in the Pro 14 Competition.
Club rugby in Pretoria has become relevant again, says Strauss. “We are entering a golden era for especially the professional clubs at the Blue Bulls.
“With Northam (Limpopo) now part of the Carlton League it will be the first time in a decade that the Carlton League expands. The five professional clubs have a combined player budget of about R12 million and offer full time jobs and careers to about 70 people.
“This excludes the Tuks players. They all have successful youth clubs with 300-600 players, sustainable academies and pro coaches.
“A priority remains developing our Carlton Reserve and Limpopo clubs to the fullest of their potential with our limited resources. We will be announcing great news for these clubs of us as well! I’m very proud that we’ve made club rugby relevant again at a challenging time when it’s nationally in decline.
“It is also important for us to grow rugby in the communities and the Blue Bulls Rugby Union will assist the Pretoria and Limpopo clubs financially in 2020.
Clubs in the TW Profile Super League –
Tuks, Naka Bulle, QBR, Centurion, Northam, Brakpan and East Rand United (ERU).
Clubs in the TW Profile Trophy Competition –
Vereeniging, Klerksdorp, Impala, Benoni, Boksburg, Pretoria, Tuine, TUT, Dragons, Correctional Services, NWU Vaal and Springs.
There will also be 16 teams competing in the two TW Profile U20 leagues.
Fixtures for TW Profile Super Cup and Carlton Cup leagues and dates for the national open club knockout competition for the Gold Cup –
(First teams to kick off at 16:00)
Round 1: 14 March
Northam vs UP Tuks
Centurion vs QBR
East Rand United vs Brakpan
Round 2: 28 March
Naka Bulls vs UP Tuks
East Rand United vs QBR
Brakpan vs Centurion
Round 3: 4 April
Naka Bulls vs East Rand United
Centurion vs Northam
Brakpan vs QBR
Round 4: 18 April
UP Tuks vs Centurion
QBR vs Naka Bulls
Northam vs East Rand United
Round 5: 9 May
UP Tuks vs East Rand United
Naka Bulls vs Brakpan
QBR vs Northam
Round 6: 16 May
QBR vs UP Tuks
Centurion vs Naka Bulls
Brakpan vs Northam
Round 7: 23 May
UP Tuks vs Brakpan
Northam vs Naka Bulls
East Rand United vs Centurion
Super Cup Semi-Finals
Super Cup Finals
CARLTON CUP 2020
Round 1: 11 JULY
UP Tuks Vs Northam
Naka Bulls vs QBR
Round 2: 18 July
UP Tuks vs Naka Bulls
Northam vs Centurion
Round 3: 1 August
Naka Bulls vs Northam
QBR vs Centurion
Round 4: 8 August
Centurion vs Naka Bulls (@ Loftus Versfeld)
QBR vs UP Tuks
Round 5: 15 August
Northam vs QBR
Centurion vs UP Tuks
Final: 22 August
Round 1: 28 March 2020
Randfontein v s Boksburg
Round 2: 25 April 2020
Round 3: 30 May 2020
Round 4: 27 June 2020
Round 5: 25 July 2020