Namibia: Unam Rugby Club Cries Foul Over Gold Cup … Wanderers’ Entry Under Microscope

The highly-anticipated participation of FNB Wanderers Rugby Club in the revamped format of the South African Gold Cup has come under scrutiny. This follows the country's rugby governing body, the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU)'s decision to hand-pick Wanderers Rugby Club as Namibia's legitimate representatives in the lucrative South Africa provincial club championship. However, aggrieved members of FNB Unam Rugby Club are having none of that. The reigning Namibian champions say this is daylight robbery and accuse the NRU of deliberately sidelining them in favour of their accross-town rivals Wanderers. The tourney features provincial champions, thus clearing Unam to be Namibia's sole representatives, but apparently the rugby hierarchy had a different interpretation of justice in this regard.

It has been established that university teams are excluded from the clubs tourney, but Unam argues it should not be categorised as a university entrant because of the absence of a university league within Namibian rugby structures.

"It's incumbent upon the NRU, as the presiding body, to explain in detail to event organisers the precarious situation in our domestic rugby, as opposed to the South African setup.

"The NRU should have cleared the confusion over our legitimacy as reigning Namibian champions," fumed an official from Unam RC. Approached to shed light on this potentially dangerous turn of events, NRU chief executive officer Elizma Theron would not be drawn into discussing the matter.

She opted to refer all queries regarding this burning issue to John Williams. The latter could not be reached for comment, despite numerous attempts to locate him.

Johannesburg-based Pirates Rugby Club will host the first-ever international match in the Gold Cup era after the SA Rugby Union recently confirmed the fixtures for the country's flagship tourney for non-university clubs.

The Ghosts will make their first appearance in a national club tourney since 2009, when they host the Namibian champions at Greenside, Johannesburg on September 10.

Known as the Community Cup until last year, the Gold Cup has been expanded as from this year to include the champions of Namibia and Zimbabwe. The Gold Cup kicks off on Saturday, September 10, with 20 clubs competing in a Rugby World Cup-style format, with eight pool matches per week for five weeks until October 8. The top two teams from each group progress to the quarterfinals a week later. All knockout matches including the semi-finals (October 22) and the grand final (October 29) will be hosted at participants' venues. "With just four months left, the countdown has already begun, as both SA Rugby and participating clubs await anxiously for the kick-off of the Gold Cup era," said SARU boss Jurie Roux.

The profile and quality of club rugby has risen sharply in the past few years and fans are once again expected to pack the stadiums around the country to watch their local heroes in action.

"Players are fully aware that a good performance would take them onto the radar of provinces and franchises and while there are still many issues to be addressed, the days of club rugby being perceived as a career cul-de-sac are over," Roux added.

The Namibian champions fixtures home and away:

Round 1 - Sat September 10:

Pirates v Namibian champions (Pirates Rugby Club, Greenside, Johannesburg)

Round 3 - Sat September 24:

Namibian champions v Northam Platinum Rhinos (Windhoek)

Round 4 - Sat October 1:

Rustenburg Impala v Namibian champions (Impala Rugby Club, Rustenburg)

Round 5 - Sat October 8:

Namibian champions v Pacaltsdorp Evergreens (Windhoek)

Source: New Era