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PE’s Wolfson Stadium plays host to first Rugby Festival in the SuperSport Challenge on Sunday

PE’s Wolfson Stadium plays host to first Rugby Festival in the SuperSport Challenge on Sunday

The first of five Rugby Festivals will launch in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge at the Isaac Wolfson Stadium in Kwazakele, Port Elizabeth, on Sunday.

The SuperSport Rugby Challenge, a recently ratified tournament comprising of 14 Provincial rugby unions across the country and Namibia, will see its first action this week when 12 teams take to the field in six fixtures.

The Free State Cheetahs, Golden Lions and SWD Eagles will have byes this weekend in the tournament’s first round.

The newly incorporated Rugby Festivals will take rugby innovation to the heartlands of South Africa, in attempts to introduce the game to the grassroots of all landscapes in the country – with transformation targets the ultimate backdrop moving forward.

“The SuperSport Rugby Challenge will take professional rugby to places it has never been before,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux at the tournament’s launch just over a week ago.

“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,” Roux continued.

PE’s Wolfson Stadium will this weekend, have the privilege of hosting the first Rugby Festival with four hours of rugby action, which will all be broadcasted live on SuperSport channel 210.

The Rugby Festival will aim to engage, embrace and reel in interest from local communities in various areas of the country to come out and support their provincial sides, as well as local rugby clubs.

For the club encounter, PE Harlequins will be taking to the field against the African Bombers at 10:30, before the Border Bulldogs encounter the Boland Cavaliers at 13:00 in their SuperSport Challenge match-up, followed by the EP Kings playing host to Western Province in the final match of the festival at 15:00 – all broadcasted live.

Speaking of involving club rugby in the mix of provincial fixtures during the tournament at the various Rugby Festivals, Roux also emphasized that it is these roots that provide an essential link to semi-pro rugby, and then filtering talent unto premier, professional rugby.

“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,” Roux also commented at the launch.

The SuperSport Challenge sees the involvement of 14 provincial teams and Namibia (the Welwitschias), divided in three groups of five – coined the North, Central and South groups; based proportionately on the geographic locations of each union.

This may see the tournament also attract a lot of viewership with teams playing oppositions that are relatively region-specific, and as a result, may spark interest in local provicial rivalries.

The EP Kings are placed in the South group alongside the Boland Cavaliers, Border Bulldogs, SWD Eagles and Western Province - teams all along the southern coastal areas, bar the Sharks, who are higher north, up the coast and are therefore placed in the Central group.

Former Springbok, Sharks and Western Province prop, Robbi Kempson, will head the EP Kings’ charges throughout the duration of the SuperSport Challenge.

After the group stages conclude, the top two sides in each group, as well as the two best third-placed sides on log points will progress to the last eight, where the sides will battle it out in the quarter-finals.

All opening round fixtures of the SuperSport Challenge:

Saturday 22 April: 
Vodacom Blue Bulls vs Steval Pumas

Venue: Loftus Versfeld. Pretoria
Kick-off: 2:30pm
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
TV: Delayed, Sunday 5:00pm (Channel 210)

Cell C Sharks XV vs Tafel Lager Griquas

Venue: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban 
Kick-off: 5:00pm
Referee: Stuart Berry
TV: Delayed on Sunday at 6:45pm (Channel 210)

Hino Valke vs Windhoek Draught Welwitschias

Venue: Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park
Kick-off: 3:00pm
Referee: Quinton Immelman

Down Touch Griffons vs Leopards

Venue: HT Pelatona Projects Stadium, Welkom
Kick-off: 3:00pm
Referee: Pro Legoete

Sunday 23 April:

African Bombers vs PE Harlequins (club match) 
Venue: Wolfson Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 10:30am
Referee: Ruhan Meiring
TV: SS1, SS210

Border Bulldogs vs Boland

Venue: Wolfson Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 1:00pm
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
TV: SS1, SS210

Eastern Province vs DHL Western Province

Venue: Wolfson Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 3:00pm
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
TV: SS1, SS210