The Gold Cup tournament resumed last month, following a long COVID-enforced hiatus. After four action-packed rounds featuring 32 of South Africa’s top clubs, the best of the best progressed to the decider at the Naka Bulle Rugby Club in Pretoria.

The hosts went into the final as favourites, having lost only twice in their previous 50 matches at home. Meanwhile, Rovers travelled to Pretoria on the back of big wins against two other northern clubs, namely Centurion and the Northam Rhinos.

On the day, the Rovers showed flashes of attacking brilliance, but were unable to live with the hosts’ physicality. Their discipline also let them down, with two players receiving yellow cards in the final stages of the first half.

Like their namesake, Naka Bulle relied on their strengths at the set pieces and collisions to lay an attacking platform. The maul proved a terrific source of momentum and earned the hosts a penalty try as the contest approached half-time.

Centre Martin Austen touched down for his team’s fifth try thereafter, and the Bulle went to the break with a commanding 35-10 lead. At that stage, a winning margin of 50 points or more was on the cards.

Rovers fought hard to stay in the game. Having rebounded from a 14-point deficit to win the recent semi-final against the Northam Rhinos, they had every reason to believe that a comeback was achievable.

The visitors started to lift the tempo in spite of the heat, and began to find more space against their tiring opponents. They hit back through winger Charles Mayeza right after half-time, and then through centre Alwayno Visagie in the 55th minute.

However, another offence by Rovers at the ensuing kickoff stalled the visitors’ momentum. The Bulls kicked the penalty to touch and set their maul, before taking the ball through several phases to score through replacement Ian Oosthuizen.

A further mistake by Rovers in the 70th minute provided Naka Bulle with a chance to close out the game. Austen booted the loose ball ahead, regathered it and scored his second try of the afternoon.

Replacement Ruben Beytell joined the try-scoring party after he collected a bouncing ball and sprinted 70m to score. Flyhalf Hansie Graaf slotted his seventh conversion, and Naka Bulle went on to claim an emphatic victory.


Naka Bulle 56 (35) – Tries: Frans Botha, Xavier Human, Stephan Vermeulen, Penalty try, Martin Austen (2), Ian Oosthuizen, Ruben Beytell. Conversions: Hansie Graaf (7).

Heineken College Rovers 29 (10) – Tries: Sergio Torrens, Charles Mayeza, Alwayno Visagie, Allistar Mumba. Conversions: Inny Radebe (3). Penalty goal: Radebe.