RUGBY NEWS - The pilot municipal club rugby competition kicked off in the Southern Cape last Saturday.
The pilot project - a joint initiative between SA Rugby and the SWD Rugby Football Union - will see the best club players in SWD being given the opportunity to represent their municipal regions in an eight-team tournament that will take place across the length and breadth of the Garden Route (formerly Eden) and Central Karoo districts.
The competition will be contested in two divisions, with representative teams from George, Oudtshoorn, Mossel Bay and Hessequa local municipalities contesting the Community Cup while Bitou, Knysna and Kannaland local municipalities will be joined by Central Karoo District in the Community Shield.
Each team will be playing the other three sides in their division at home and away. The top two teams in each division will contest the Community Cup and Shield finals at Outeniqua Park, George, on 9 November - the weekend after the Rugby World Cup Final.
"Club and amateur grassroots rugby is undergoing a heartening revival, with the Gold Cup already providing a high-quality aspirational platform for the best non-university club sides and huge crowds flocking to clubs across the country to watch their local community heroes in action," said SA Rugby CEO, Jurie Roux.
"Our provincial unions have asked for the reinstatement of some form of amateur provincial rugby to act as an aspirational platform for their club players, and we believe that this pilot could offer a blueprint for future amateur representative rugby. Unlike the old amateur provincial competitions, which mostly accommodated only a single team from each provincial union, the aim of the Community Cup and Shield is to drill down as deep as possible into our talent base and provide as many players as possible, from even the smallest villages and clubs, with a platform to display their talents. Each of the eight 'provincial' teams will comprise players registered with clubs geographically located within their particular local or district municipality," he said.
"The beauty of this concept is that a player does not have to play for a Premier League club to make his representative municipal team. If the star fly half of a second-league club such as Dysselsdorp is good enough, he could end up playing for Oudtshoorn against George or Mossel Bay in front of 10 000 people, including the SWD Eagles coaches and selectors."
SWD president, Hennie Baartman, said the Community Cup and Shield pilot would take club rugby in the province to another level and help spread the rugby gospel across the Garden Route and Central Karoo districts.
"The Gold Cup has raised the profile and standard of club rugby in SWD over the past few years," Baartman said. "In 2018 alone, thanks to SuperSport, no fewer than six of our clubs, including two second-division platteland teams in Prince Albert and Oudtshoorn, played live on TV. What the Community Cup and Shield is going to do is take things to a whole new level. Now every player in the province will have an additional pathway into provincial rugby. During the league season, players will be vying for selection for their region and, after that, hopefully catch the eye of the Eagles selectors. It will also be a great platform for us to develop the next wave of top coaches and administrators currently doing great things in SWD club rugby," said Baartman.
Roux said that the pilot project, if successful, could incorporate other unions as early as 2020 and ultimately provide the blueprint for a more relevant and sustainable national amateur provincial competition.
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