Rugby returns to festival mode for SuperSport Rugby Challenge

Cape Town - Rugby fans across the country are in for a treat when the SuperSport Rugby Challenge kicks off on April 21.

The community-centred provincial tournament, launched last year and won by Western Province, will again feature a number of televised triple-header match-ups in the form of Sunday Rugby Festivals that are played in community venues and will be free to the public.

WP will start the defence of their crown at the first of these festivals - on April 22 at the Wolfson Stadium in Kwazakhele outside Port Elizabeth - against home side Eastern Province.

The format of the tournament will again see five teams battle it out in each of the North, South and Central pools, with all 14 unions and Namibia taking part in what promises to be another exciting opportunity for new prospects to emerge and more fans to get the opportunity to see their heroes in action on their doorsteps.

As happened in 2017, Sunday Festivals will kick off with a televised Gold Cup qualifying match featuring a big derby between two local premiership clubs.

The SuperSport Rugby Challenge Pools are:

- North: Blue Bulls, Golden Lions, Valke, Pumas, Namibia Welwitschias
- Central: Free State, Griffons, Griquas, Leopards, Sharks
- South: Boland Cavaliers, Border Bulldogs, EP Elephants, SWD Eagles, Western Province

The top two teams from each pool, together with the two third-placed teams with the most log points, will qualify for the quarter-finals, scheduled for the weekend of June 30/July 1. The semi-finals will once again take the form of a televised double-header on Sunday July 8, with the final a week later, on Sunday, July 15.

The Sunday Rugby Festivals dates are:

April 22: Wolfson Stadium, Kwazakhele, Port Elizabeth
May 13: Newrak Impala Rugby Club, Rustenburg
May 20: Bridgton Sports Ground, Oudtshoorn
June 17: Sisa Dukashe Stadium, Mdantsane
June 24: Bill Jardine Stadium, Longdale, Johannesburg

SuperSport Rugby Challenge Fixtures (most venues and kick-off times are still to be confirmed):

Saturday, April 21
Pumas v Blue Bulls (Nelspruit Rugby Club, 15:00)         
Welwitschias v Valke
Griquas v Sharks
Leopards v Griffons (HS Schweizer Reneke, Schweizer Reneke, 15:00)        

Sunday, April 22 - Triple-header Rugby Festival at Wolfson Stadium, Kwazakhele (live on SS10)
Gold Cup Qualifier club curtain-raiser (teams TBC) - 10:30
Boland Cavaliers v Border Bulldogs (12:45)
Western Province v Eastern Province (15:00)            

Saturday, April 28
Eastern Province v SWD Eagles (Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth)
Blue Bulls v Welwitschias (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
Golden Lions v Pumas   
Border Bulldogs v Western Province
Griffons v Free State
Griquas v Leopards (Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley, 15:00)

Saturday, May 5
Free State v Leopards (Friday, May 4, Shimla Park, Bloemfontein, 18:00)              
Western Province v Boland Cavaliers (Newlands, Cape Town)
Sharks v Griffons (Kings Park, Durban, 14:30)
Welwitschias v Golden Lions
Valke v Blue Bulls              
SWD Eagles v Border Bulldogs      

Saturday, May 12
Valke v Golden Lions
Welwitschias v Pumas
Boland Cavaliers v SWD Eagles  (Wesbank Sports Grounds, Malmesbury, 15:00)
Border Bulldogs v Eastern Province          

Sunday, May 13 - Triple-header Rugby Festival Impala Rugby Club, Rustenburg (live on SS10)
Gold Cup Qualifier club curtain-raiser (teams TBC) - 10:30
Griquas v Free State (12:45)
Leopards v Sharks (15:00)

Saturday, May 19
Pumas v Valke (Mbombela Stadium, 15:00)          
Boland Cavaliers v Eastern Province (Grabouw RFC, 15:00)
Griquas v Griffons (Sivos Stadium, Kathu)
Free State v Sharks

Sunday, May 20 - Triple-header Rugby Festival at Bridgton Sports Ground, Oudtshoorn (live on SS10)
Gold Cup Qualifier club curtain-raiser (teams TBC) - 10:30
Blue Bulls v Golden Lions (12:45)      
SWD Eagles v Western Province (15:00)      

Saturday, May 26             
Leopards v Griquas (Friday, May 25, Fanie du Toit Sports Grounds, Potchefstroom, 15:00)
Border Bulldogs v Boland Cavaliers (Friday, May 25, BCM Stadium, 19:00)           
Blue Bulls v Pumas (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
Valke v Welwitschias    
Eastern Province v Western Province            
Free State v Griffons      

Saturday, June 2
Leopards v Free State (Friday, June 1, Fanie du Toit Sports Grounds, Potchefstroom, 15:00)
Welwitschias v Blue Bulls  
Steval Pumas v Xerox Golden Lions (Mbombela Stadium, 15:00)
Western Province v Border Bulldogs              
SWD Eagles v Eastern Province                                                                                                                  Griffons v Sharks

Saturday, June 9
Blue Bulls v Valke (Friday, June 8, Loftus Versfeld, 15:00)              
Golden Lions v Welwitschias (Friday, June 8, venue & time TBC)             
Border Bulldogs v SWD Eagles    
Boland Cavaliers v Western Province (Boland Park, Worcester, 15:00)       
Sharks v Leopards (Piet Retief Rugby Club, Piet Retief, 17:00)       
Free State v Griquas           

Saturday, June 16
Golden Lions v Hino Valke        
Pumas v Welwitschias (Secunda Rugby Club, 15:00)
SWD Eagles v Boland Cavaliers   
Griffons v Leopards (HT Pelatona Stadium, Welkom, 15:00)              

Sunday, June 17 - Triple-header Rugby Festival at Sisa Dukashe Stadium, Mdantsane (live on SS10)
Gold Cup Qualifier club curtain-raiser (teams TBC) - 10:30
Sharks v Griquas (12:45)    
Border Bulldogs v Eastern Province (15:00)         

Saturday, June 23
Eastern Province v Boland Cavaliers                                                                                                          Western Province v SWD Eagles       
Griffons v Griquas          
Sharks v Free State

Sunday, June 24 - Triple-header Rugby Festival at Bill Jardine Stadium, Longdale, Johannesburg (live on SS10)
Gold Cup Qualifier club curtain-raiser (teams TBC) - 10:30
Valke v Pumas (12:45)
Golden Lions v Blue Bulls (15:00)       

Saturday June 30/Sunday July 1 - venues TBC
Quarter-finals (including 1 triple-header festival)                                              

Sunday 8 July - venue TBC
Semifinals (triple-header festival)                                

Sunday 15 July - venue TBC
Final (festival)