THE Cell C Community Cup is set to explode into action next year with a massive Eastern Province derby headlining the opening round after Spring Rose were awarded a wild card spot this week.
Adding spice to that announcement, the New Brighton rugby club will take on inaugural champions Despatch in the opening match in Despatch on March 8, with the game being televised live on SuperSport.
Spring Rose had an excellent season in the Grand Challenge this year, being the only team to defeat EP champions NMMU en route to a third-placed finish behind the Madibaz and Despatch.
Yesterday, club chairman Xhanti Lamani said they were overjoyed with their inclusion, which he described as reward for the efforts the players and management had put in over the past few years.
“We are happy and this is another step forward for us,” Lamani said.
“It is confirmation of the hard work we have put in.
“The players have been dedicated and the coaching staff have done sterling work. The Community Cup is an opportunity for our players to get more exposure and it’s more than just playing in the competition because there will be talent identification scouts looking at the players.
“Spring Rose have produced many Springboks over the years and it is a feather in our cap.”
Lamani said they would be relying mainly on their squad from this year, but would consider boosting it in certain areas.
Assisted by a R20000 sponsorship from NomaXhosa Construction, Spring Rose, who were formed in 1907, enjoyed one of their best seasons in the Grand Challenge this year. They will be relishing the prospect of featuring on the national stage, but know there will be no favours from their provincial rivals in the opening showdown.
GAP Despatch annexed the Community Cup title when they defeated favourites College Rovers in George on Easter Monday and they will be determined to justify their status as one of the favourites.
Besides Spring Rose, the other four wild cards named in the 20-team field were Boland’s Wesbank, Welkom, SWD Premier League finalists Mossel Bay Barbarians and Boksburg Falcons.
The other teams that received wild cards must still be allocated to the four pools.
The tournament will again feature 40 pool matches to be played around the country. The two top clubs in each of the four pools will qualify for the Easter championship playoffs, to be played once again in George, from April 17-21.
The pools are:
Pool A: Despatch, Bridgton (SWD), Old Selbornians, Spring Rose, wild card 2.
Pool B: College Rovers (KZN), Roodepoort (Lions), Welkom Rovers (Griffons), Bloem Crusaders (FS), wild card 3 (tbc)
Pool C: Brakpan (Falcons), Centurion (Blue Bulls), Roses United (Boland), Noordelikes (Limpopo), wild card 4 (tbc)
Pool D: Rustenburg Impala (Leopards), Hamiltons (WP), Sishen (Griquas), Shumba Ferros (Mpumalanga), wild card 5 (tbc)