Club rugby's return to the spotlight received another boost on Monday when it was confirmed by SARU's Executive Council that Cell C Community Cup champions, Rustenburg Impala, would represent South Africa in the Confederation of African Rugby's (CAR) Africa Cup tournament in the Botswana capital Gaborone from 15-21 June.
Impala, who beat Roodepoort 13-11 in the second Community Cup final in George on Easter Monday to lift the iconic Gold Cup, will take the place of Morocco in the IRB-sanctioned tournament, which will feature hosts Botswana as well as Mauritius, Swaziland, Nigeria and Zambia.
“We've seen over the past two years how the Cell C Community Cup has revived club rugby and having our champion club represent the country in an international tournament will provide our club players with another fantastic platform which didn't exist before,” said SARU CEO, Jurie Roux.
“One of SARU's main priorities is to restore club rugby to its rightful place in the rugby landscape, while we also have a duty to assist where we can to spread the rugby gospel in Africa.
“Impala's participation ticks both of these boxes and hopefully this could be the start of more regular contact with our rugby-playing neighbours.”
Impala chairman, Andries de Kock, said his club were honoured to have been chosen.
“This could not have come at a better time and we must thank SARU, CAR and the IRB for the opportunity,” said De Kock, whose recruitment of former Springbok fullback and Sharks assistant coach Hugh Reece-Edwards helped the Leopards club to claim their first-ever national title earlier this year.
“Everybody knows how the town of Rustenburg has been battling lately and the mining strike has also had a negative effect on our club and its players.
“This has really lifted our spirits. The team are very excited to play against international opposition but we are also very aware of the ambassadorial role we can play in uplifting African rugby and we are ready to do exactly that.”