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Club Champs

Barbarians descend on Stellenbosch for SAA National Club Champs

They might not have qualified for the SAA National Club Championships in over a decade, but Mossel Bay’s Barbarians are determined to challenge strongly for national honours when the most prestigious tournament on the club rugby calendar kicks off on 18 September at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.

Teams representing South Western Districts have in recent years been unable to make an impression against the champion teams of bigger unions, with the likes of Bridgton, Evergreens and Great Brakrivier being unable to progress past the first round.

Bridgton (2008) and Great Brak (2009) did go on to reach the Plate final and semi-final respectively, but Barbarians, who qualified having won the first round of the 14-team SWD Premier League, believe they can do better.

“The last time we went to the tournament it was as a so-called ‘development side’,” said Barbarians’ chairman Phillip Busch. “But we’ve spent the past two years taking the club to a whole new level. We believe that we will do better than previous clubs from our area.”

Barbarians, one of only two clubs in the burgeoning Southern Cape town, were established in 1994 when four community clubs in the greater Mossel Bay area decided to join forces in the province’s unified premier league.

The team has been coached by Hendrik Saayman for the past two years and boasts a number of exciting players to watch out for at the Club Champs, including captain and lock Sheldon Abrahams, eighthman Winston Seconds, winger Henry Wolhuter, and former SWD Under-21 scrumhalf Morné Buys.

“We’ve got a promising team but like so many other clubs we are battling when it comes to sponsorship,” said Busch. “People just don’t want to plough money in. Perhaps it’s the financial crisis but if we do get sponsored it’s perhaps for T-shirts.

“Many of the guys are unemployed and our income comes strictly from gate takings. Some players and even our coach come from as far away as Albertinia, and we have to pay their petrol. It’s a battle but we’re going to give our best in Stellenbosch.”

With the Club Champs kickoff just over five weeks away, Barbarians join a growing list of clubs from around the country who have already qualified, including Bethlehem Oud-Skoliere (Griffons), College Rovers (KZN), Middelburg (Mpumalanga), 12-time champions Maties, title holders Hamilton (both Western Province), Free State University’s Shimlas and fellow Varsity Cup heavyweights Pukke.

Rovers made sure of qualifying for their fifth straight Club Champs when they beat Old Boys 37-7 in a KZN Premier Division match last Friday. Rovers will now set their sights on winning the ‘double’ when they begin their Murray Cup knockout campaign against second-division team Hillcrest on Saturday.

The Murray Cup has in previous years been restricted to the top eight sides of the Premier Division, but the KZNRU has decided to introduce more of an FA Cup-style tournament that involves clubs from lower divisions getting a chance to play their more illustrious rivals.

In other provinces, including Border, Eastern Province and Boland, the coming weeks will decide just who picks up a Club Champs golden ticket.

The Border Premier League is heading down to the wire with only four sides left in the running. Champions Buffalo will play old Boys and Winter Rose will take on Police in the semi-finals next Saturday, 21 August, at Buffalo Park and Mdantsane respectively.

It’s a similar situation in EP, where champions Park and SAPS are involved in a two-way battle for the title, with the likes of Harlequins, Suburban and newcomers United Barbarians not yet out of the running.

Issued by SARU Communications