It’s all systems go for the 10th installment of the Raymond Mhlaba National Heritage Rugby Tournament to be held in Alice from Friday, 21 September to Monday 24 September.
Celebrating its 10th year of existence, the organizers have put together a bumper weekend filled with a plethora of activities to showcase tradition and culture of this region. Besides rugby, there will a cultural festival from 23-24 September at Alice Park, and a Gala Dinner on Saturday night to honor some of the prominent sports personalities that played a prominent role in introducing this tournament in the Raymond Mhlaba Municipality district. The Gala Dinner will be addressed by the MEC for Sports, Arts and Culture in the Province, Bulelwa Tunyiswa, with renowned club rugby supporter Xhanti Lamani giving history of the tournament.
The 2018 edition has attracted a lot of interest from the rugby community according to the Chairperson of Raymond Mhlaba Sports Council, Mr Joe Ndlebe.
“We have seen an unbelievable interest from clubs to come to this tournament and that has really excited us. We now have 42 clubs in total and had to turn away a lot more”, boasted Ndlebe.
“For the first time in the history of this tournament, we will have a local college playing in Lovedale Rugby side and this has really brought good memories for me as a local boy. We are happy to have inspired the revival of Lovedale hoping that other colleges in our region will join in”, said Ndlebe
The tournament will kick off on Friday afternoon at 14h00 at Davidson Stadium, A-Field with Pool B matches.
Pool B is made up of local clubs from both Victoria East Rugby Union (VERU) and Middledrift Rugby Union (MIDRU) as part of the commitment of Raymnond Mhlaba Municipality to both showcase local talent and provide an opportunity for local teams to test themselves against the best.
Another exciting development in the region that was inspired by this tournament is the formation of Raymond Mhlaba Rugby Union which is the amalgamation of VERU and MIDRU with some clubs coming from the Midlands Rugby Union.
“Another milestone that we hope to celebrate as the Sports Council is the formation of the Raymond Mhlaba Rugby Union which will be officially introduced at the Gala Dinner. The Union is formed in line with the current political demarcation of our municipality and will take over the running of this tournament in future”, said Ndlebe.
Raymond Mhlaba Municipality spokesperson, Cynthia Mokimiti, said the event is one of the main attractions to the region and the municipality see it as one of its vehicles for social cohesion ad sports tourism.
“Raymond Mhlaba Municipality has been a partner of this project for the past ten years and we see this as a perfect vehicle to harness talent through a proper developmental pathway,” she said.
“Through this tournament local players received invaluable experience by competing against players from other parts of the country. We believe that it is only by exposing our players to national competition at a young age that we can succeed in our quest for our province to regain its glory as the main suppliers of talent for the Springboks.”
This was echoed by Ndlebe, “This is the tournament where stars are born. In the near future we are hoping to see some of the players representing their senior national teams at the World Cup,” he said.