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Club Champs

SAA National Club Champs countdown – 51 days to go

The KwaZulu-Natal Premier Division title, as well as a place at the 36th annual SAA National Club Championships, will be up for grabs when one of the country’s most fiercely-contested club rugby rivalries resumes in Durban on Friday night.

The clash between log leaders Durban Collegians and defending champions College Rovers at the Kings Park fields will in all likelihood decide in whose trophy cabinet the historic Moor Cup will end up this season – not to mention which of the two sides will travel to Stellenbosch to challenge for a national title KZN clubs have not won for 16 years.

The match takes place at Collegians’ home ground, KP10, with kick off at 8pm.

This year’s Club Champs returns to Stellenbosch for the fifth time in six years after the tournament was successfully hosted by the Blue Bulls at the University of Pretoria last year.

Defending champions Hamilton of Western Province will be joined by 12-time champions and fellow WP qualifiers Maties in a tournament featuring the champion clubs from the country’s 14 provinces. In addition, two clubs invited by SARU complete a 16-team draw.

Collegians, who represented KZN at the Club Champs in 2005 when they reached the semi-finals, currently have 53 points from their 12 matches with only one loss – against Rovers in the first round.

Rovers, on 52 points, are unbeaten and have a match in hand. Victory over Collegians will all but seal Rovers’ fifth straight ticket to a Club Champs in which they have excelled in recent seasons.

The Durbanites reached the 2006 and 2008 Club Champs finals, losing to Pukke (33-21 and 17-12) on both occasions, while last year they were beaten 34-12 in the last four by eventual champions Hammies.

The last KZN team to win the Club Champs was Crusaders, who claimed back-to-back titles in 1993 and 1994.

In other KZN Moor Cup matches on Friday, Old Boys host the self-same Crusaders, Maritzburg Varsity are at home to Harlequins, and Jaguars, who are currently bottom of the log with no wins, travel to Zululand Rhinos. The latter match kicks off at 8.30pm, with the other games starting at 8pm.

Elsewhere, another Club Champs qualifier will be decided this weekend when Middelburg and White River play the second-leg of the Mpumalanga final.

The road to this year’s final saw play-offs in each of the vast province’s three regions – Ehlanzeni, Gert Sibane (Coalfields) and Nkangala (Highveld).

In Ehlanzeni, White River and Barberton beat 2008 Club Champs qualifiers Nelspruit and Belfast to reach the final, which White River won.

In Gert Sibande, Bethal pipped Ermelo while in Nkangala, champions Middelburg beat Ferros. Middelburg then beat Ermelo and Bethal accounted for Ferros to set up a final which saw Middelburg emerge victorious and earn the right to play White River for the overall title.

Middelburg beat White River 58-12 at home in the first leg, with the return match scheduled for Saturday.