THE champion clubs of Namibia and Zimbabwe have been included in the new Gold Cup club competition in South Africa that will replace the Community Cup next year.
The South African Rugby Union (SARU) said the move is designed to help those countries with the long-term goal of qualifying for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Namibia managed to reach this year’s World Cup in the UK and won many fans with their committed displays on the field as they performed much better than qualifiers normally do at the four-yearly event.
SARU assisted the Namibians by allowing them to train alongside the Springboks in the build-up to the 2015 World Cup during a training camp in Durban. Former Bok wing Pieter Rossouw was also part of the Namibian coaching staff, and a number of their players ply their trade in South Africa as well.
It is hoped that Zimbabwe can now also make it through to another World Cup, having participated in the first two tournaments in 1987 and 1991.
SARU’s club rugby manager visited Zimbabwe two months ago and watched the Northern Rugby League club finalbetween champions Harare Sports Club and Old Georgians.
Defending Gold Cup winners Durbanville-Bellville from Western Province and the champion clubs from South Africa’s 14 rugby provinces, as well as a team from Limpopo, will join two other South African qualifier clubs and teams from Namibia and Zimbabwe to complete the 20-team line-up, which will be announced in the New Year.
This comes after SARU decided last week that Namibia’s national team will also take part in the Currie Cup in 2016.
SARU have also assisted Kenya over the years, and the East Africans have become a real force on the World Rugby Sevens Series circuit in recent seasons. The Kenyans beat the Springbok Sevens side 14-12 at the Cape Town Sevens tournament at the weekend and ended in fourth place in the Cup competition.
“Strategically, this decision is in line with our commitment to assist our neighbours so that they have the best possible chance of qualifying alongside South Africa for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan,” SARU CEO Jurie Roux said.
“Namibia’s best players will benefit from playing in the expanded Currie Cup in 2016, and the incorporation of their champion club into our tournament structures will help strengthen their next tier of players.
“Zimbabwe came within a whisker of qualifying for the 2015 World Cup, and participation in the Gold Cup will likewise revive their top domestic league and expose their players to a higher level of competition.”
The Gold Cup playoffs won’t be played at one venue anymore, which was the case with the Community Cup. The tournament will start on September 10, which is at the end of the regular club season in South Africa, and the top two from each of the pools will advance to the knockout stages. – ANA