WITH a pep talk from Springbok rugby legend Danie Gerber guaranteed to put extra fire in their bellies, Despatch will be raring to go when their opening match at the national club rugby championships kicks off in Rustenburg tomorrow.
Two-time champions Despatch will have the honour of playing in the first match of this year's new- look championships when they take on White River at the Impala Club.
"We arranged for former Despatch and Bok centre Danie to give a motivational talk to the players ahead of our departure and this has been a big boost for us," Despatch president Marius Swanepoel said.
"Danie has also been involved in our fitness sessions as we prepare for this challenge."
Despatch are EP's top-ranked non-university club and the only side to have beaten domestic champions NMMU in this season's Grand Challenge.
Though varsity sides are precluded from the championships, Swanepoel expects a high standard at the tournament because in some regions of the country, clubs qualified on merit ahead of varsity opposition. It is interesting to note that had the tournament been open to varsity teams, only UJ, Shimlas and NMMU would have qualified.
"In many areas, club sides were stronger than varsity sides and two teams who are expected to make strong challenges are Kwazulu-Natal outfit College Rovers and Pretoria Police," Swanepoel said.
Despatch's opening day opponents are giant-killers White River, the first Lowveld side to qualify for the tournament since Nelspruit in 2008.
Besides Gerber's input, Despatch have another former Bok in coach Adri Geldenhuys to guide them at the national event.
The towering former Bok lock has played a key role in Despatch's success this season and his experience at the highest level of the game will be invaluable.
Geldenhuys and Eric Toring are the Despatch coaches and they are assisted by Eric Sauls (technical advisor) and Gerber (conditioning).
"I am confident that we can match the best club teams in the country," Swanepoel said.
"We have got try scorers in this team and that is always important. The side is also solid in defence and that will be critical against tough opposition," he said.
"I am pleased to say that we field a very diverse team with 11 players of colour in the 25-man squad.
"Our under-21 side have also done very well this year and this augurs well for the future of the club."
The eight first-round winners will advance to the Cup quarter-finals, with the losers contesting the Plate quarter-finals.
These matches will be played on Monday, with the semifinals scheduled for Wednesday.
The Cup and Plate finals will be played on Friday.
The Despatch squad is: Dylan Lamprecht, Giovano Fourie, Ayanda Nogampula, Ashley Viviers, Elandre Smit, Dalton Davis, Marius Oosthuizen, Elroy Ligman, Marlon Lewis, Ryan Brown, Baldwin McBean, Godfried Dumond, Basil De Joncker, Elcardo Minjoor, Hendrik van Schalkwyk, Stanley Arikaner, Pierre Bouwer, Carel Grebe, Darren van Winkell, Bronwin Gysman, Rosseau Prinsloo, Deon Booysen, Hendrik van Tonder, Christo Memanie, Bron-Lee Viviers.