South Africa’s newest provincial rugby competition, the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, opened in spectacular fashion this weekend at Wolfson Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Sunday afternoon as part of a new initiative of playing matches on Sunday at community venues as part of a Rugby Festival.
The festival, which included a local club derby, was well attended and hailed a success by all concerned, with an estimated 10,000 spectators packing the Kwazakele-venue.
The first weekend produced some highly entertaining and memorable rugby action, with a number of teams flexing some early season muscle. The Eastern Province Kings were however unfortunate not to make their hometown advantage pay, as they went down to the Western Province in their opening derby.
DHL Western Province had their work cut out against the EP Kings. The visitors from Cape Town survived a tough examination which saw the home side trailing by only three points at the break. Ultimately the Western Province managed to overcome the halftime score of 10-13 to beat the Eastern Cape team by 30-18 on Sunday.
The other matches of the opening round of the fresh competition provided more entertaining rugby. The Hino Valke led the pack in the try-scoring stakes, with seven five-pointers in a convincing 50-17 win over the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias in Kempton Park on Saturday, a day of upsets for home teams.
Earlier on Saturday, the Vodacom Blue Bulls, Cell C Sharks XV and Down Touch Griffons lost their home matches. The Vodacom Blue Bulls came up short to the Steval Pumas at Loftus Versfeld, with the visitors finishing very strong, scored three late tries to secure a 31-23 (halftime 13-9) victory. In Welkom, the Leopards turned the tables on the Down Touch Griffons, beating the hosts 29-17 in the HT Pelatona Projects Stadium in Welkom, in a replay of last year’s Currie Cup First Division Final. And in Durban, the Cell C Sharks XV were pressing for a win over Tafel Lager Griquas, but two late scores thwarted their efforts.
If the opening round is any indication, the newly formatted SuperSport Challenge competition will be an exciting showcase of local rugby, which will also help to develop the sides for even higher honours.
Eastern Province 18, DHL Western Province 30
EP Kings 18 (13) – Tries: Siyanda Grey, Stefan Ungerer, Alshaun Bock. Penalty: Garrick Mattheus.
DHL WP 30 (10) – Tries: Marcello Sampson, Grant Hermanus, Luke Stringer, Jaco Coetzee. Conversions: Brandon Thompson (2). Penalties: Brandon Thompson (2).