Wednesday Club Column

Telnet Crusaders came close to causing one of the biggest shocks in Murray Cup history when they were edged out 27-21 by Jonsson College Rovers in the final of the Castle Murray Cup knockout competition at Riverside Sports last Saturday afternoon and with the help of the SA Breweries team together with Darren Scott, Tank Lanning, Simon Hill, John Walland and the remarkable team from Ballz Visual Radio it has to go down as the best club finals day in living memory. Certainly Roger Gardner and the Varsity College Rugby Club can hold their heads high for hosting a successful and great day of rugby camaraderie and entertainment that will unquestionably be the highlight of the 2012 club season. At the end of it all it will be a hard act to follow next year.

It was a fitting finale to the 2012 club rugby season with international referee Marius Jonker handling the proceedings in the final and there can be no doubt that everyone had expected Rovers to completely dominate proceedings on finals day. It wasn’t to be with Crusaders coming out with passion and a huge desire to win and for them one can only give them huge credit for an absolutely incredible performance especially when one considers that the club was almost down and out at the start of the season. In the end, the game could have gone either way and had they won the match it would have certainly been a fairy tale ending to quite a remarkable season for them. As it turned out Crusaders can still hold their heads high.

It certainly wasn’t pretty but it was enthralling as Rovers, by their own admission, knew at the final whistle that this was a huge wake-up call for them as they now have to prepare for the National Club Championships in Rustenburg with the knowledge that any side no matter how good can quite easily stumble. They certainly weren’t very impressive on the day but they do seem to have that uncanny knack of stealing victory from the depths of despair. It has been their good fortune in recent seasons, something they may have learnt from Acer Durban Collegians, and has become a very important part of their makeup. After all, it boils down to their true belief in their winning culture.

Crusaders opened the scoring with an Armand Botha penalty and were playing like men possessed and full of passion in the opening stages of the game. Rovers levelled matters when Jors Dannhauser slotted a penalty. It wasn’t long before Botha kicked a second penalty before Rovers fullback Chris Jordaan scored the opening try in the dying minutes of the second half to take a 10-6 lead after Dannhauser converted.

When Rovers scored their second try through wing Dannhauser early in the second half, one got the feeling it could be the end of the Saders challenge but the Durban North club had other ideas putting in their finest performance of the season only being outscored four tries to three by the victors at the end of it all. It was a ding dong battle all the way to the final whistle with Crusaders coming away with most of the accolades. Rovers other tries came from centre Jean Botha and Shannon Rick with Kobus de Kock kicking a conversion

Crusaders tries came from skipper prop Ronnie Uys, No 8 Nigel Archer and Hubert de Haas and in the end had they had a more successful kicker it could well have been a different story all together.

The top try scorer of the competition award was shared by Anton Verster of Rovers and Angelo Miniettie of Crusaders with four each.

Jors Dannhauser from Rovers was chosen as Most Valuable player of the series by former Bok and Sharks flanker AJ Venter while Crusaders prop Thulani Ngidi was named the Man of the Match.

With 10 clubs involved in the finals Ricoh Maritzburg Collegians won the Junior Murray Cup beating Newcastle Highlanders 32-14 showing the gap between Premier and First Division however the side from Northern KZN showed true spirit making a game of it. Fidelity Security Jaguars picked up their first piece of silverware in their Under 20 history when they edged out Rovers ‘B’ 14-10 taking home the DW Geddie Cup but sadly in this game the appalling refereeing by Jannerman Robberts spoilt what was otherwise a great day for the referees. Thanda Waterstone Zululand Rhinos picked up the Findlay Cup beating Westville 13-8 in their final.

In the other finals Rovers beat Crusaders 70-3 to claim the Peter Taylor Trophy, Pongola secured the Keith Parkinson Cup beating FNB UKZN Maritzburg 18-7 and finally Hillcrest accounted for Amanzimtoti winning the Chris Edwards Under 21 knockout Cup beating the side from the South Coast 27-10.

- Jos Robson