Rugby soldiers ready for battle

Eleven teams will compete at the annual SANDF Rugby Championships in Potchefstroom from 28 June to 3 July.

The tournament, which will be held at the military base, has become a regular recurrence on the SANDF Rugby Association's calendar and has produced many a former provincial and national player including the late Tinus Linee and Chester Williams. 

Formally divided into two tiers, the Senior and Presidents leagues, the structure takes on a different look this year with the introduction of a third division, the Premier league, to ensure all matches are strength versus strength.

In the main draw, defending champions Gauteng will face Western Province, Free State and South-Eastern Cape (made up of players from SWD, EP and Border) in an elimination competition. West Coast (Boland), Northern Cape, North West and KwaZulu-Natal (joined by Mpumalanga) will contest the Presidents league; while B teams from Western Province, South-Eastern Cape and Gauteng will square off in the inaugural Premier division. There will also be a Women's league, with teams from WP, Free State, Gauteng (joined by North-West) and the Northern Cape set to battle for supremacy.

According to SANDF Rugby Association president, Colonel Pieter Oberholzer, soldier deployment has deprived various districts of its star players hence the merger between teams like Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal and the combined squad of South-Eastern Cape.

The purpose of the five-day activity is to provide soldiers with the opportunity to break away from their demanding and tension-filled profession and to continue the rich tradition of rugby in the defence force, Oberholzer told

'We want all troopers to battle hard but more importantly to enjoy themselves. There are striking similarities between defending your country in battle and fighting for a team on the sports field. Of all the sport codes, rugby comes closest to meeting the requirements involving military operations and we are extremely proud of what we've achieved with this event over the years', he said.

Oberholzer added the decision to host the tournament in Potchefstroom for a second successive year was down to the excellent facilities and accommodation at the base, as well as the wonderful support by the locals.

'The attendance was much higher than we expected and the community really opened their hearts to us with food, beverage and sports merchandise stalls in 2014. A similar if not better turnout next week will make this year's tournament the best one yet.'

Matches will be played on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with players enjoying a day off on Tuesday, while Thursday has been set aside for the coaching clinics in the region.

At the completion of the event, an extended National Military squad will be named to face the South African Police Services team in Cape Town on 30 July. The squad will be reduced the following day, with those selected players set to represent South Africa at the International Defence Rugby Competition in England in October. 

Photo: SANDF Rugby Association 

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