All systems go for National Club Champs

College Rovers will attempt to become the first team this century to retain their National Club Championship crown when they open their title defence on Saturday against invited team SK Walmers at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.

The tournament features the 14 provincial champions, the Limpopo winners as well as an invited team in a 16-team draw, with Saturday's first-round matches kicking off at 10h00. The main game starts at 17h15.

Rovers, KZN champions for the past six seasons and undefeated for more than two years, head into the tournament having won 56 of their last 57 matches. But if history is anything to go by, retaining the Club Champs trophy will be a far more difficult assignment than winning it.

The last team to hold onto the crown were hosts Maties, who won consecutive titles in 1997 and 1998, both against the former RAU (now UJ). Interestingly, Maties made it a hat-trick of back-to-back victories for teams after Pretoria Police (1996, 1997) and Durban's Crusaders (1993, 1994) achieved the same feat.

However, since then the past 12 tournaments have delivered 12 different champions, with university teams winning nine times – Shimlas (1999, 2002), Maties (2000, 2005, 2007), Tukkies (2003), and Pukke (2004, 2006, 2008).

The only non-university clubs to win in this period were Pirates (2001), Hamilton (2009) and College Rovers (2010).

Tuks became the 16th and final team to qualify for this year's tournament when they beat Pretoria Police in last week's Carlton Cup final.

First round (Saturday 17 Sept):

Outside fields:
10h00, B field: UJ (Golden Lions) v Noordelikes (Limpopo) [ D ]
10h00, F field: Park (EP) v Progress (SWD) [ F ]
11h45, B field: Shimlas (Free State) v Winter Rose (Border) [ H ]
11h45, F field: Springs (Valke) v Welkom Rovers (Griffons) [ E ]

Danie Craven Stadium:
11h45: NWU-Pukke (Leopards) v Kimberley Police (Griquas) [ C ]
13h30: Roses United (Boland) v Tukkies (Blue Bulls) [ G ]
15h15: Maties (WP) v Middelburg (Mpumalanga) [ B ]
17h15: College Rovers (KZN, defending champs) v SK Walmers (invited, WP) [ A ]

The eight first-round winners will compete in the Cup quarter-finals on Monday September 19, with the eight losers playing in the Plate event.

Quarter-finals (Monday 19 Sept):

11h45, B field: Winner A v Winner H [ I ]
13h30, B field: Winner B v Winner G [ J ]
15h15, Stadium: Winner D v Winner E [ L ]
17h00, Stadium: Winner C v Winner F [ K ]

10h00, F field: Loser A v Loser H [ M ]
10h00, G field: Loser B v Loser G [ N ]
11h45, F field: Loser D v Loser E [ P ]
13h30, G field: Loser C v Loser F [ O ]
Only the winners of Monday's matches will stay on for Wednesday's Cup and Plate semi-finals.

Semi-Finals (Wednesday 21 Sept):

15h15, Stadium: Winner I v Winner L
17h00, Stadium: Winner J v Winner K

11h45, B field: Winner M v Winner P
13h30, B field: Winner N v Winner O

Finals (Friday 23 Sept):

Plate: 11h00 (live on SuperSport)
Cup: 13h00 (live on SuperSport)

National Club Championship winners 2000-2010:

2010 College Rovers 24 Maties 15
2009 Hamilton 36 Pukke 34
2008 Pukke 17 College Rovers 12
2007 Maties 24 Tukkies 8
2006 Pukke 33 College Rovers 21
2005 Maties 24 UJ 13
2004 Pukke 41 TUT 10
2003 Tukkies 46 Pukke 25
2002 Shimlas 34 Pukke 26
2001 Pirates 37 Tygerberg 13
2000 Maties 54 Tukkies 37

Issued by SARU Corporate Affairs