SuperSport Rugby Challenge to change rugby landscape
Rugby festivals at five different venues across the breadth and depth of South Africa – with provincial and club teams in action – will be a key feature of the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, the exciting new competition launched by SA Rugby and SuperSport in Johannesburg on Monday.
Bill Jardine Stadium, where the SuperSport Rugby Challenge was launched, is one of the five venues that will host Rugby Festival Days in the coming months. This is one of the fresh initiatives of the new competition, which will see four provincial teams and two local club sides contest for glory in three consecutive, televised matches from the same ground.
The Rugby Festivals will aim to embrace local communities to come out to support local clubs, as well as their provincial team in what promises to provide massive exposure to players and help establish new heroes in communities and provinces.
Other venues that will host Rugby Festival Days – all of them on Sundays – are the Wolfson Stadium in Port Elizabeth, Impala Rugby Club in Rustenburg, the venue of last year’s club rugby Gold Cup Final, East London (venue to be confirmed) and Bridgton Sports Fields in Oudtshoorn, with a minimum of four hours of rugby action offered to spectators TV viewers.
SuperSport confirmed that all live matches will be broadcast on SuperSport Select (channel 210), which is available to subscribers of all of the broadcaster’s packages, including Premium, Extra, Compact, Family and Access. Where scheduling allows, these matches will also be available on SuperSport One – to cater for high definition viewing.
The competition, which will also include Namibia’s Welwitschias, kicks off on 21 April and will be divided into three regions – north, south and central – with local bragging rights up for grabs.
The first Rugby Festival will take place at the Wolfson Stadium on Sunday 23 April and will see local clubs African Bombers and PE Harlequins face off in an appetizing start to the day, followed by SuperSport Rugby Challenge clashes between Border and Boland, with the final match between EP Kings and DHL Western Province.
“The SuperSport Rugby Challenge will take professional rugby to places it has never been before,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.
“A new playing day, new venues and new match schedules will set the SuperSport Rugby Challenge apart. We’re very excited to see the response to moving some of the matches away from the professional venues, as the passion for the game burns brightly in our rugby heartlands, and together with SuperSport this is precisely where we will be going to share that excitement.
“When you take rugby back to its roots, club rugby is a vital part of the mix. There is a historic link between club and provincial rugby that has largely been lost in the professional era. The SuperSport Rugby Challenge will hopefully change that by also showcasing some of South Africa’s biggest provincial club derbies.”
The 15 teams are divided into three geographical pools, with each playing home and away against the other four teams in their pool over the 10-week period. Six-pool matches will be played every weekend for 10 weeks, followed by seven knockout games.
The top two teams from each Pool, together with the two third-placed teams with the most log points, will qualify for the quarter-finals, which will take place on Sunday 2 July, followed by the semi-finals a week later and the final on Sunday 16 July.
“We are involved because we believe in taking rugby back to the people,” said Gideon Khobane, SuperSport Chief Executive.
“There’s a huge appetite for first class rugby beyond the usual centres and teams themselves have expressed a willingness to do so. This tournament will add another layer to SA rugby’s great nursery and hopefully produce players who will become heroes in their communities.
“We at SuperSport are excited to be bringing the best of community rugby to urban and rural areas. We also look forward to unveiling some exciting broadcast initiatives and want to be a part of something special, something that nurtures the massive wealth of talent out there.”
To add even more value to the product, SuperSport has embarked on a commentator search with the winners being utilised during matches. This will include English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa commentators.
The tournament will also be used to upskill existing MultiChoice Diski Challenge learnership graduates and Craven 2016 trainees and offer on-the-job training to tertiary institution graduates.
The SuperSport Rugby Challenge Pools are:
North: Vodacom Blue Bulls, Xerox Golden Lions, Hino Valke, Steval Pumas, Namibia Welwitschias
Central: Toyota Free State Cheetahs, Down Touch Griffons, Tafel Lager Griquas, Leopards, Cell C Sharks XV
South: Boland Cavaliers, Border Bulldogs, EP Kings, SWD Eagles, DHL Western Province