Wednesday Club Column

The qualifying round of the Castle Lager Murray Cup club rugby knockout competition produced some close calls for two of the Premier Division sides. The opening round was full of excitement and intrigue, which saw Premier Division side Thanda Zululand Rhinos being knocked out by their First Division neighbors Richards Bay in extra time with a last gasp penalty by JP Rossouw, which sealed the game for the men from the Bay.

The Rhinos only consolation was the Castle Man of the Match R1000 being awarded to their veteran loose forward, the man in charge of Development in the area, Charles Mdaweni for his outstanding performance. The side from Empangeni will now go on to play in the Junior Murray Cup with all the other losing sides in the qualifying round.

Down in Port Shepstone, Nashua Crusaders took a bit of a gamble in playing a slightly under strength squad against the winners of the South Section First Division league, Fidelity Security South Coast Warriors, eventually winning 21-12 after leading 21-0 at the break with the Man of the Match Award going to Jandre Grobbelaar. Up at Shongweni, Ricoh Maritzburg Collegians got out of jail against the home side Hillcrest, edging out the Villagers 11-10 after a late penalty went wide giving the outfit from the capital a life line. Hillcrest centre Kyle Walters was named the Castle Man of the Match in this game.

The 2014 Fidelity Security Premier Division champions SA Home Loans Durban Collegians, looking to take the double this year, had an easy enough start to their Murray Cup campaign with a 57-12 win over Harlequins out on the Bluff, with their star of the day Fanela Zwane being awarded Man of the Match. Varsity College too had a comfortable win, beating Newcastle Highlanders 42-22 at the home of the Northern KZN club, with the Man of the Match award going to Biselele Tshamala.

Amanzimtoti didn't take any chances on their trip to Vryheid, not knowing what to expect from Rich Verster's charges, taking their full strength squad and eventually winning handsomely 60-25 in the end. Toti coach Jeff Harper was full of praise for his hosts, a very young side that can only go from strength to strength going forward. The Man of the Match was awarded to Amanzimtoti flanker playing lock on the day, Pieter Harmse. Further up the line, FNB UKZN Impi had a hard-fought 36-23 victory over Piet Retief, Adam Wessels leading the way for the students with two tries and was named Man of the Match.

In the remaining game, Jaguars were up for the challenge against an under strength Jonsson College outfit that saw the latter's dynamic under 21 flanker Louis Hazelhurst leading the way with two tries in his side's grueling 31-14 victory. Full marks must go to the Sydenham side for some truly entertaining rugby, living off the scraps. This is one side that can turn you around at the drop of a hat and they certainly showed they have the ability to challenge now for the Junior Murray Cup. Rovers other tries came from Chris Jordaan, Jake Adam and Paul Bester with Chris Micklewood kicking the balance. The Jaguars replied with tries from Sya Mgcobo and Sunwabiso Mqaco with Tinashe Toriro slotting two well judged conversions.

2013 Murray Cup champions Rovers have drawn Durban Collegians for the quarter-finals and have also drawn home ground advantage. In the other games, the only First Division side left in the mix, Richards Bay, meet Crusaders at the Durban North club's home grounds in Ranleigh Crescent while Maritburg Collegians travel to Toti and Varsity College face the UKZN Impi at Riverside. All games kick off at 3pm. The second sides will follow their First XVs to contest the Peter Taylor Trophy in the early games at the different venues.

The draw for the Junior Murray Cup also took place at GrowthpointKINGS PARK on Monday evening with South Coast Warriors entertaining Harlequins in Port Shepstone, Zululand Rhinos are at home to Vryheid at Mick Kelly Park while Jaguars entertain Hillcrest and Piet Retief travel to Newcastle to meet the Highlanders.

In the Under 20 'A' League, College Rovers edged out Durban Collegians 10-3 while down at Port Shepstone, South Coast Warriors squeaked home 34-31 in another closely-contested game against Crusaders.

Jos Robson