Do-or-die weekend for Gold Cup hopefuls

Cape Town – The unforgiving nature of the new-look SSG Gold
Cup, presented by Blu Approved & M4Jam and championed by 2007 Rugby World
Cup-winning Springbok captain John Smit, means that a number of top clubs enter
Saturday’s second round fighting to stay alive in SA Rugby’s flagship national
championship for non-university clubs.

This follows a dramatic opening weekend,
characterised by capacity crowds, free-flowing rugby and a number of surprise
results from across the country.

In Pool A, a 10,000-strong crowd at Boland Park
in Worcester were treated to an 81-point thriller as visitors Northam Platinum
Rhinos held out for a 41-40 win over hosts United Bulk Worcester
Villagers, at 136 years the oldest team in this year’s tournament.

And 400km away in George, 2015 Gold Cup
champions Durbell made it two away wins in the group when they showed their
championship intent with a 35-7 dismantling of a very good Progress
George team spurred on by 6 000 fanatical supporters at Rosemoor Stadium.

Saturday sees Progress at home again, this time
against Villagers, with both teams knowing that a second defeat will almost
certainly eliminate them from the competition. In the other match, Durbell host
Rhinos in Cape Town, with both sides having their sights set on topping the log
and possibly avoiding 2017 finalists College Rovers in the quarter-finals.

Not that Rovers’ advance to the playoffs is any
foregone conclusion: on the back of an opening 36-9 home win over wildcards East Rand United, the Durbanites must travel to Uitenhage to
face EP champions Gardens at the historic Derrick Ferreira Stadium in

Gardens will be looking to bounce back from a
19-14 home defeat to Secunda in round one and, like Progress and
Villagers, will need a victory over the 2017 Gold Cup finalists to keep their
hopes alive of advancing from Pool B.

In the other pool match, East Rand United will
also need to be in do-or-die mode when they host Secunda at the
‘Graveyard’, the Reigerpark Sports Ground in Ekurhuleni.

In Pool C, there is more backs-to-the-wall
action at the Sivos Stadium in Kathu, where home side Sishen, who
picked up an invaluable away bonus point in their 46-31 defeat in Pretoria to Naka Bulls, host Recall Security Bloemfontein Police.

The Bobbies are coming off at 31-25 away defeat
to Welkom and, with Naka Bulls looming in the final round – albeit at their
Bobbies Park fortress – the  men from Bloemfontein know they must grab points on the road
this weekend to have playoff aspirations.

In the other Pool C match, Naka Bulls host
Welkom in Pretoria, with both teams one victory away from likely qualification
for the last eight.

And in Pool D, arguably the match of the
weekend sees 2014 and 2016 Gold Cup champions Rustenburg Impala, who in
a repeat of the 2014 Gold Cup final overwhelmed Roodepoort 54-31,
hosting high-flying Swallows, who were surprise 17-13 victors
over Springs on the East Rand last weekend.

The Border side have a close affinity with the
players from Impala, with many of the latter’s players hailing from the Eastern
Cape. A capacity crowd is on the cards, with many Swallows supporters from
around the country taking to social media to express their commitment to travel
to Rustenburg for the match.

And in the pool’s other match, the hallowed
turf of Ellis Park hosts 2014 finalists Roodepoort and Springs in a Super Rugby curtain-raiser that kicks off at 11:45. Both
teams, like last week’s losing sides from the other three pools, must win to
stand any chance of reaching the quarter-finals.

“Amateur club rugby
is where rugby and communities are built from the ground up,” said Smit, the
acting CEO of SSG Holdings and the face of this year’s tournament.

“The unsung heroes
in these communities need to be given the opportunity to be celebrated and the
Gold Cup is one of the ideal platforms to achieve this.

“The Gold Cup’s
vision of building communities and providing opportunities is shared
wholeheartedly by SSG Holdings, Blu Approved and M4Jam. We are proud to be
associated with the grassroots game and we look forward to seeing the
tournament grow from strength to strength.”

Round 2 fixtures:

Saturday, March 16:

Pool A:

16:00 – Progress George v Villagers
Worcester (Rosemoor Stadium, George)

16:00 – Durbanville-Bellville v Rhinos (Durbell Rugby Club, Cape Town)

Pool B:

15:30 – Gardens v College Rovers (Derrick Ferreira Stadium, Uitenhage)

16:00 – East Rand United v Secunda (Reiger
Park Sports Ground, Ekurhuleni)

Pool C:

16:00 – Naka Bulls v Welkom (Naka Bulls RFC, Pretoria)

16:00 – Sishen v Recall Security Bloemfontein Police (Sivos Stadium, Kathu)

Pool D:

11:45 – Roodepoort v Springs (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg)

16:00 – Rustenburg Impala v Swallows (Impala Rugby Club, Rustenburg)


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