DESPATCH will have teams from Oudtshoorn and East London in their sights when they defend their title in the Cell C Community Cup rugby competition next year.
The final 15 qualifiers for the national club competition were decided last weekend when Oudtshoorn club Bridgton caused a major surprise by defeating Mossel Bay favourites Barbarians 25-24 in the South Western Districts (SWD) premier league final.
Meanwhile, another EP club will be in line to join the competition, with Spring Rose nominated as one of the 13 wild cards.
Saru's games and policies committee will choose five wild cards to complete the 20-team field later this month.
It proved a fairytale finish for Bridgton after they finished only fourth on the SWD log in the league phase. They defeated champions Pacaltsdorp Evergreens in the semifinals and then produced a thrilling finish to seal their berth in Group A.
They trailed Barbarians 24-20 with 90 seconds remaining but, after conceding a penalty, they turned over possession near their own line before embarking on one final attack.
The movement, which went through more than 20 phases, resulted in a try in the corner after the hooter to seal the Barbarians' fate.
Bridgton joined East London club Old Selbornians who beat Fort Hare 25-20 in the Border premier league final. Two wild card clubs will complete the group of five teams.
Despatch claimed the national title in April when they defeated Durban side College Rovers.
The competition does not involve university teams who all compete in the Varsity Cup.
Roses United became the second wild card team from this year – the other being Bloemfontein Crusaders – to return to the 2014 tournament on merit when they won the Boland premier league.
With just over 150 days to go until the Community Cup kicks off on March 8, with the opening match in Despatch, the 15 confirmed qualifiers are: Welkom Rovers (Griffons), Hamiltons (WP), GAP Despatch (EP), Shumba Ferros (Mpumalanga), Jonsson College Rovers (KZN), Brakpan (Falcons), Roodepoort (Golden Lions), Sishen (Griquas), Bloemfontein Crusaders (Free State), Centurion (Blue Bulls), BB Truck Noordelikes (Blue Bulls Limpopo), Broubart Old Selbornians (Border), Rustenburg Impala (Leopards), Roses United (Boland) and Bridgton (SWD).
There are four newcomers – Ferros, Bridgton, Hamiltons and Centurion.
The 13 clubs officially nominated by their respective unions, from which the final five wild cards will come, are: Oostelikes (Blue Bulls), Eagles (Boland – tbc), East London Police (Border), Spring Rose (EP), Pirates (Golden Lions), Welkom (Griffons), Kimberley (Griquas), Durban Collegians (KZN), Vaal Reefs (Leopards), Middelburg (Mpumalanga), Mossel Bay Barbarians (SWD), Boksburg (Falcons) and Tygerberg (WP).