THE field for the Cell C Community Cup Easter play-offs in George has been confirmed after a dramatic final round which saw the identity of the final quarter-finalist only decided in the dying minutes of the final pool match.
There will be four new teams fighting it out at Outeniqua Park from 17-21 April for the iconic Gold Cup and the title of South African's champion non-university club, with the major shock on Saturday being the elimination of 2013 bronze medallists and many people's pre-tournament favourites, G5 Metals Brakpan.
There was high drama in Gauteng on Saturday when Refreshhh! Centurion made it through to the last eight on their first attempt after holding out for a nailbiting 32-all draw against Brakpan – the Blue Bulls' representatives' second deadlock following their 26-all result against Roses United last month. With both sides finishing on 15 log points, it was Centurion who advanced on points difference.
Centurion, coached by former Springbok prop Christo Bezuidehout, will now face fellow newcomers Hamiltons in a club version of the WP-Blue Bulls rivalry, after Hammies pulled off a remarkable, come-from-behind 43-28 win over Impala in Rustenburg thanks to 23 points from the faultless boot of flyhalf Shane Vallender. The home side's star was wing Earl Lewis, who scored a hat-trick inside 33 minutes.
Impala, under the guidance of former Springbok fullback and Sharks coach Hugh Reece-Edwards, will face Roses United in the quarter-finals, after the Boland champions produced yet another scintillating display of running rugby to beat BB Truck Noordelikes 58-21 to take top honours in Pool C.
Defending champions Gap Management Despatch avoided a quarter-final repeat of last year's final against Jonsson College Rovers when they beat Kempston Old Selbornians 38-16 in East London, with winger Billy Mentoor scoring four tries. The Border champions now face KZN champions Rovers, who were pushed all the way by their namesakes, Eagle Towing Rovers of Welkom, before running out 24-16 winners in Durban.
The winner of the Rovers-Old Boys match will play the winner of the Impala-Roses game in the last four, while Golden Lions champions Roodepoort will face Despatch for the right to play the winners of the Hamiltons-Centurion clash.
And while it might be the end of the road for the 12 non-qualifiers, a number of clubs will take heart from their performances. Free State's top open club, Bloemfontein Crusaders, featuring brothers Griffin, Darren and Brandon Colby in their starting line-up, beat E-Car Welkom 62-22 to finish a creditable third in Pool B and 10th overall.
Griquas champs Aveng Moolmans Sishen can also hold their heads high. The men from Kathu, under the guidance of amongst others former Bok flyhalf Boeta Wessels, finished their campaign with a resounding 52-10 victory over Wesbank that saw them finish third in Pool D and 11th overall.
And at the New Brighton Oval, Spring Rose ended a disappointing campaign on a superb note when they overcame a 24-point deficit at halftime against Mossel Bay Barbarians to score 27 unanswered second-half points to run out 32-29 winners and so finish 12th overall.
After 40 matches played over five weeks at 20 venues countrywide, attention now turns to George, where Despatch will look to retain their crown over the Easter long weekend, with all 12 matches to be broadcast live on SuperSport.
Full Results, Final Round (all results & scorers to be ratified on Monday):
Kempston Old Selbornians (16) 16 – Try: MJ le Marquand. Conversion: Warren Rielly. Penalties: Rielly (3).
Gap Management Despatch (17) 38 – Tries: Billy Mentoor (4), Monty Dumond, Robert Slabbert. Conversions: Dumond (4).
Spring Rose (5) 32
Mossel Bay Barbarians (29) 29
Jonsson College Rovers (7) 26 – Tries: Chris Micklewood, Jors Dannhauser (2), Kyle Wilkinson. Conversions: Micklewood, Wilkinson, Jeandre Small.
Eagle Towing Rovers (7) 14 – Tries: Shaun Nieuwenhuyzen, Pieter Strydom. Conversions: Strydom (2).
E-Car Welkom (14) 22 – Tries: Quintin Davis, Malcolm-Kerr Till, Christo Boshoff. Conversions: Till (2). Drop goal: Till.
Bloemfontein Crusaders (29) 62 – Tries: Lebohang Tsoeu (2), Jonathan Boucher (2), Jacques van Rooyen, Griffin Colby, Donavan Ball, Don Manus, Daniel Viljoen (2). Conversions: G Colby (5), Deon Taljaard.
BB Truck Noordelikes (7) 21 – Tries: Mynhardt Smith (2), Theyman Jongbloed. Conversions: Zander Byleveldt (3).
Roses United (27) 58 – Tries: Tiaan Ramat, Gershwin Moses (2), Brendon April (2), Adriaan Jacobs (2). Conversions: April, Ryan Julies (6). Penalties: Julies (3).
Refreshhh! Centurion (20) 32 – Tries: Steven Moir, Sibongile Njomba, Ryno Coetzee, Gerhard van der Merwe. Conversions: Moir (3). Penalties: Moir, Stanley Twiname.
G5 Metals Brakpan (17) 32 – Tries: Franco Booysen, Tommy Damba, Thinus Ueckermann, Tobie Strydom, Wikus van der Berg. Conversions: Gido Horn (2). Penalty: Horn.
Aveng Moolmans Sishen (28) 52 – Tries: Penalty try, Tiaan le Roux (2), Leonard Poolman, Jamie Zwiegelaar, Attie du Plessis, Arnold Coetzee, Anthony de Villiers. Conversions: Tiaan le Roux (6).
Wesbank (3) 10 – Try: Johannes Slabber. Conversion: Magnum Nelson. Penalty: Rodville Jonkers.
Rustenburg Impala (20) 28 – Tries: Earl Lewis (3), Michael Nienaber. Conversion: Wilco de Wet. Penalties: Willie Kok (2).
Hamiltons (13) 43 – Tries: Terry Jacobs, Janno van Zyl, Jody Burch, Jandre du Plessis. Conversions: Shane Vallender (4). Penalties: Vallender (4). Drop goal: Vallender.
Easter Play-offs fixtures – Outeniqua Park, George (all matches live on SuperSport):
Day 1 – Thu 17 Apr (kick-off times 11h15, 13h30, 15h45, 18h00; order of matches TBC):
Match 41 (Cup QF1) – Roses United (Winner Pool C) vs Rustenburg Impala (Runner-up Pool D)
Match 42 (Cup QF2) – Jonsson College Rovers (Winner Pool B) vs Kempston Old Selbornians (Runner-up Pool A)
Match 43 (Cup QF3) – Hamiltons (Winner Pool D) vs Refreshhh! Centurion (Runner-up Pool C)
Match 44 (Cup QF4) – Gap Management Despatch (Winner Pool A) vs Roodepoort (Runner-up Pool B)