Wednesday Club Column
There were celebrations aplenty at the home of SA Home Loans Durban Collegians after they wrapped up their league season in fine style on Saturday, edging out Jonsson College Rovers 26-20 in an enthralling clash during the last round of the Fidelity Security Premier Division competition.
Victory meant that they finished as the only unbeaten side in the the league, so securing the coveted Moor Cup, which was manufactured in Birmingham way back in 1873 by George Unite, making it the oldest piece of silverware in World Rugby. And what a special moment it was for them, making it the 26th time that their name will be engraved on the priceless trophy that was presented by George Moor to the fledgling colony of Natal way back in 1876.
Rovers opened the scoring with a superb try by fullback Jors Dannhauser, which he himself converted. However, three penalties by flyhalf Duncan Campbell, who had a day to remember and barely put a foot wrong all afternoon, gave Collegians a 9-7 lead at the break. Rovers were definately up for the challenge, playing some great running rugby in patches, but that man Campbell broke the stranglehold in the second half with a superb break to put Andrew Holland in for a superlative try. Collegians then saw wing Douglas Warden going in for a try but Rovers weren't done yet, with hooker Chris Kemp crashing over for a try with Dannhauser converting. Juandre Small took over the kicking duties when the fullback left the field, kicking two superb long range penalties and trailing 23-20, it was any one's game. But Campbell was equal to the task and kicked over the winning penalty that mattered towards the end after Rovers had been adding the pressure in their last surge for victory.
So ended Rovers' eight year reign of superiority and whilst there was a certain amount of disappointment in the camp, there was also a positive feeling in the air with great expectations of a new era dawning. There can be no denying the fact that the 115 year old club had set a new benchmark for the club game in the province and often with glory comes disappointment for which one can only get stronger from the experience.
The good news for the club however, is the strength in their depth with Sam Vermaak's Second XV winning the Premier Division Reserve League and so securing the Wylie Cup, a trophy presented fittingly to the Union by the first President of Rovers, W.S Wylie, in 1904. The 2nds won all but one of their games after drawing 22-22 against Varsity College last week. Certainly full marks must go to Darryl Clark and his assistant James Fouche for their efforts at the Riverside-based club finishing second in the Premier Reserve league.
For the rest, Nashua Crusaders - undoubtedly the most improved of the Premier Division clubs - beat Amanzimtoti 18-7 and so finishing third on the log table ahead of Varsity College. South Coast Terriers, the newcomers to the league, certainly didn't disgrace themselves and can look forward to a great future in the Premier Division. Ricoh Maritzburg Collegians too had an improved season and their game on Saturday was called off against Thanda Zululand Rhinos, the one side that struggled the most this season and once again having to withdraw, not being able to field a side due to injuries. In the remaining game Varsity College beat FNB UKZN Impi 36-5.
Up at Woodburn, Newcastle Highlanders beat South Warriors 25-18 to take the First Division title and the Dewar Shield while Mick Rumble's Rovers' charges wrapped up the Third Division to reclaim the Walker Cup after Queensburgh only managed an 18-15 win over Durban Mets. Not forgetting the Ladies, the Rovers girls are back in the mix after edging out Jaguars 15-14.
Varsity College have taken the Frank Norris Trophy and the Kings Park Rugby Club Cup taking home the Under 20 league double yet again.
This weekend all eyes will turn to the opening round of the Castle Murray Cup knockout competition, with the top six First Division sides entering the fray. Newly-crowned Premier Division champions Durban Collegians will face Harlequins on the Bluff while Rovers play Jaguars. Crusaders travel to Port Shepstone to play South Coast Warriors, Varsity College go to Newcastle to play the Highlanders while Maritzburg Collegians play Hillcrest at Shongweni and UKZN Impi travel to Piet Retief with Zululand Rhinos facing Richards Bay in an all Zululand derby.