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SAA National Club Champs

Hammies, Maties sound ominous SAA National Club Champs warning

DEFENDING champions Hamilton and three-time Varsity Cup champions Maties moved one step closer to a heavyweight, all-Western Province semifinal clash when they romped to huge victories on the opening day of the 36th SAA National Club Champs at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.

In the curtain-raiser to the main match, 12-time club champions Maties, playing on their home ground, made light work of Griquas champs Kimberley Police in notching up 15 tries in a 99-12 romp. However, a far tougher assignment awaits them on Monday, when they play last yearís semi-finalists, Springs.

The same can be said of Hammies, whose 83-25 win over Limpopo Blue Bulls champions Noordelike has set up a mouth-watering clash against Eastern Province champions Progress, who famously beat Maties at the same venue four years ago.

On a day of cricket scores there was also plenty of high drama in the form of dramatic, come-from-behind wins for Progress as well as Bolandís Roses United. Both teams secured victory after the final hooter after conjuring up long-range, counter-attacking tries when it seemed they were destined to be eliminated.

College Rovers (KZN), Springs (Valke) and Pukke (Leopards) also won through to Mondayís quarterfinals after easy wins over Bethlehem Oud-Studente, Barbarians and Middelburg respectively, while UJ (Golden Lions) came out tops in an all-student battle against Tuks to complete the last-eight line-up.

The Pretoria students became the second Varsity Cup side to be eliminated from the title race after Roses, playing in front of a boisterous crowd, overturned a 10-3 halftime deficit to run out 23-22 winners against Free State champions Shimlas.

The Bloem students, who also lost in the first round of last yearís tournament, looked to have the game sewn up. But they didnít account for Rosesí fighting spirit, which saw them put together a string of phases after the siren that ended with fullback Christopher Adams scooting over for his second try of the match.

In the tournamentís opening game, Progress led East London Police 27-0 at halftime but an amazing turnaround saw the Border Bobbies grab a 38-37 lead deep in injury time Ė only to watch as the Uitenhage side, displaying the skill and fearlessness that saw them upstage Maties, began a movement from behind their own goalline. With the ball going through at least 10 pairs of hands, it was centre Marco Jacobs who dived over under the posts to seal the most dramatic of wins.

Mondayís main match sees KZN champions College Rovers, who reached the 2006 and 2008 club champs finals at the same venue, up against UJ, whose low-key opening-day victory over Tukkies suggested that the Johannesburg students may just be the dark horses for this yearís title.

First-round results for Saturday 18 September:

Springs 80 (40) Mossel Bay Barbarians 12 (7)
Progress 44 (27) SAPS East London 38 (0)
Roses United 23 (3) Shimlas 22 (10)
UJ 33 (20) Tuks 23 (10)
College Rovers 52 (26) Bethlehem Oud-Skoliere 24 (10)
Pukke 83 (40) Middelburg 17 (17)
Maties 99 (38) Kimberley Police 12 (7)
Hamilton 83 (34) Noordelike 25 (11)

Fixtures for Monday 20 September:

Plate quarterfinals:

10h00: F field: Noordelike vs SAPS East London
10h00: G field: Middelburg vs Shimlas
11h45: F field: Mossel Bay Barbarians vs Kimberley Police
13h30: G field: Bethlehem Oud-Skoliere vs Tuks

Cup quarterfinals:

11h45: B field: Springs vs Maties
13h30: B field: Puk vs Roses United
15h15: Stadium: Hamilton vs Progress
17h00: Stadium: College Rovers vs UJ

Issued by SARU Communications