At the start of the new season, 14 clubs re-affiliated with the SA Rugby League Sport Association. The affiliates are based in towns and cities as diverse as Pretoria, Brits, Boksburg, Springs, Marble Hall, Cape Town, Witbank and Ermelo. Except for the Cape Town clubs, the northern clubs will compete in two divisions on the basis of strength versus strength. Division 1 with the Rhino Cup at stake includes Pretoria, University of Pretoria (Tuks RL Red and Tuks RL Blue), Grizzlies, Knights, Bulldogs, Spartan and the St. Helens Vultures. Division 2 with the Protea Cup at stake featured Loskop Leopards, Tomahawks, Silverbacks, Millstream Wolverines and St. Helen’s Vultures2 and Spartan 2.
Ongoing organisation and assistance to clubs indicated the return and affiliation of a number of additional clubs in due course. Activity in Cape Town in particular, is closely monitored and assisted in order to advance the extension of the code into the Western Cape. This augurs well for the return to normality and the hosting of a regular rugby league season.
As expected, the first round of matches proved challenging. In addition with ongoing work to ensure strict compliance with the Covid—19 restrictions, clubs had to contend with bad weather conditions and a lack of facilities as a result of venue clashes as more sports return to play. At least three matches were postponed for safety reasons.
In the match St. Helens Vultures versus Grizzlies, which the former won by 24-4, only one half was possible before play had to be abandoned as a result of the threat of lightning. Similarly, the match between Pretoria and Tuks Reds had to be abandoned after 16 minutes following bad weather. Tuks at that stage led by 12-0. Fortunately for the players of the Leopards and the Tomahawks, conditions were more favourable, enabling them to complete the fixture. The Leopards were thus able to launch their season on a winning note by defeating their opponents by 36-10.
The feature game of the weekend was undoubtedly the contest between Tuks Blue and the Brits Bulldogs. In an evenly-contested match that saw the score swinging from one side to the next, the tenacious Bulldogs, true to their name, matched their student opponent’s man-for-man and try-for-try. In a fitting start to an exciting season, the match concluded at 40-40.
The Spartans 2 and Vultures 2 have withdrawn from the Protea Cup. The competition will be played in two rounds. There will also be a regional competition held with Gauteng Cowboys, Eastern Eagles, MW Warthogs, Mpu Panthers (seniors and o/19).